Meaning of Symbol

3E Love's registered trademark, the "International Symbol of Acceptance" also known as the "wheelchair-heart logo," is the drive behind much of the company's goals and products. It is a symbol of society accepting people with disabilities as equals and a symbol that people with disabilities accept their challenges and even embrace them. By replacing the wheel with a heart, the stigma of the wheelchair is also removed, and it can be a symbol for people with any disability or impairment. It represents the person, not society's perception of him or her.

The symbol is an attitude and a lifestyle. It's accepting one's abilities and rallying around that diversity and turning it into strength. It's loving and living life to the fullest no matter who you are and what you look like, no matter what you can or cannot do.

It's a positive alternative to the traditional "handicapped symbol", where the focus is a person's differences and a wheelchair. Only a small portion of people utilizing services associated with the symbol use wheelchairs. People with such an array of conditions as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, paralysis, down syndrome, autism, visual impairments, hearing impairments, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and even natural age-related impairments should not all be grouped by such a stigmatizing symbol. The traditional symbol screams "Beware. Someone different parks here." or "Pity them and give them charity."

That's one thing the symbol is not - a symbol of pity. One of Annie's greatest fears was that the meaning of our symbol would be related to charity, or the quest for a cure. It is of course a result of ignorance when people see our symbol and automatically ask "Where do I donate?" -- that's an ignorance we hope to change. And it's also the reason we attached it to a business, entrepreneurship, and products. It's a flat out statement if 3E Love is successful from a business perspective that people with disabilities can achieve things without a handout.
Behind our symbol is a company started by people with disabilities, with pride, joy and passion for who they are and what they can achieve. Call it a "cause" if you insist, as long as the cause has nothing to do with wishing for change to who we are, but instead change to how we are perceived.

To Annie, it was the tattoo on the back of her shoulder that opened up so many doors for her. People would come up to her on the street and tell her how much they liked it. She would befriend them, and they would realize that she is more than a woman in a chair. It was a social conversation piece at the start. It took a few years for her to realize it was so much more and could have a positive impact on others the way it had for her.

To Stevie, it means – "No I am not in a wheelchair, I use one – and I love that I do! I wouldn't change that for anything. Everything I am and who I have become is directly connected to my disability. And I love the life I have, and try to love it even more on the bad days. The symbol is also a statement – I am not just a person in a chair, I am a man who has friends and a family, who loves, who wants to be loved, who is educated, wants to achieve great things, and who wants to love every year on earth, whether it's 85 or 28 years."

What Does it Mean to You?

Laura from Savanna, GA, USA says:
"3E Love's message, to me, is about embracing your disability, something that is so important for us. It can be very easy to stay home, to never go out and be with people, and to be ashamed or scared to be yourself. I think it is important for people to see evidence of disability pride because it generates conversation and education, which empowers us all."
Anita from Shreveport, LA, USA says:
"The first time I saw it, my heart just smiled. :) It would be the only tattoo I would consider, because it shouts of love for all."

Lucy from Chicago, IL, USA says:
"The wheelchair heart symbol means loving yourself in spite of your disability, or rather, loving your disability! It means you're perfectly fine and happy with yourself just the way you are. It means that to you, your disability isn't what stops you from doing the things you want to do, or places you want to go, or the life-style you want to have; instead, social and physical barriers are what stop you from living the life you want to live."

Maria from Atlanta, GA, USA says:
"That love, as a concept and as an emotion, is unifying. Anyone can do it, just takes a little heart. Thus, I think the wheelchair heart represents the universality of love. It makes me feel connected to humanity, as an equal, as a person who loves life no matter what gets thrown my way."

Melissa from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada says:
"I've always thought that my disability was given to me for a reason. I may not understand what that reason is at this point… By this way of thinking the challenges associated with my disability will lead to life lessons. The Wheelchair Heart is an outward expression of acceptance of those challenges. This acceptance can be a day to day struggle, but then again we can only really live our lives one day at a time. Maybe if we empower and educate enough people future generation won't have to struggle!"

Amber from Urbana, IL, USA says:
"The symbol means a lot to me since my friend created it and since my other friend runs 3E Love. The symbol is important because it shows that disability is not something to be ashamed of or pitied, but is an important, positive aspect of many peoples' lives."

Lisa from Glassboro, NJ, USA says:
"This symbol was the first time I ever saw the "handicap symbol" in a positive and loving light. I have always been against going voluntarily under the needle for a tattoo (one too many surgeries will do that to you!), but after seeing this symbol, I was so viscerally drawn to it that I am currently saving for my first and only tattoo! I also have a pride as a disability awareness educator and consultant that I have been ramped up tenfold by wearing this symbol around my neck."

Cara from New Hyde Park, NY, USA says:
"The Wheelchair Heart Symbol means pride. It means that we are disabled and we're proud of being disabled. It means that we are not going to allow others, disabled or not, to put us down because we have a disability. It means that we are a distinct minority and it is a symbol of our culture."
Shannon from Guelph, Ontario, Canada says:
"The wheelchair heart symbol makes me smile. It represents every single person in this world who lives life with a disability. It makes me hope that one day everyone in this world will be EDUCATED about disabilities and learn to love no matter WHAT. It makes me think of all of the wonderful, awesome people I know who still LOVE LIFE with their disabilities!!!!"

Theresa from West Haven, CT, USA says:
"The symbol represents that we aren't our chairs, they just help us to get around. We shouldn't all be overshadowed by the wheelchair symbol telling everyone we're HANDICAPPED, we should have a symbol meaning love…"

Kim from Everett, WA, USA says:
"A way to connect with others who share similar experiences in life, touched by a disability.
I feel proud to wear my heart and share Gabby's story and 3E Love's story with anyone who will listen."
Amanda from West Visalia, CA, USA says:
"It is the epitome of good, effective design. It communicates clearly: disability does not diminish a person. It does not make them less-than. We are whole, we are real, we are amazing people, not "in spite of" our disabilities, but because we are people representing the range of human experience. It takes a symbol that most people associate with something "bad" and makes it into the utmost Good thing on this earth - love. That is a radical notion for most of the world, but it makes all the difference."

Erica from Westfield, PA, USA says:
"I feel empowered. The wheelchair is hip enough to appeal to children and tweens, they feel comfortable asking about it and I am of course happy to talk about it. It's also sophisticated enough that adults don't feel silly for asking about it. They know when they see it that they can talk to me about disabilities. It's a conversation starter that this topic has never had."
Aaron from Honolulu, HI, USA says:
"To me, the symbol helps me to accept the fact that at 38 years old, I now need assistance to get around. … It is simply the International Symbol of Acceptance and that's all I want, is to be accepted in public, as a human being. As odd as this sounds, my disability has broadened my social life, has slowed down the speed at which I used to go through life, and is now allowing me to stop & enjoy life…"

Ruthellen from Whitman, MA, USA says:
"The symbol makes me feel accepted, at least that I accept myself. It cheers me up so much on bad days. I'm going to get it tattooed as soon as I can, with LOVE LIFE!"