NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - Many businesses throughout New Bern have changed their handicap symbols, and now the City of New Bern is doing the same. It's all part of a project started by Brendon Hildreth, 23, called the Accessible Icon Project.
Brendon said just because you are in a wheelchair, doesn't mean you can't one day overcome that disability. He said the international symbol shows a person who is stiff and needs helps. Brendon wants to change the handicap symbol to show an individual moving forward.
"The icon is moving forward because it shows human beings in action, not like robots or machines," he said.
Brendon was born with cerebral palsy, but he said being handicapped does not make you incapable of living your life.
"This project is way more than just a picture and symbol to me. I'm an advocate because I believe in myself, and I know that I belong in this world and can help make things better," he said.
Brendon said the mayor of Malden, Massachusetts adopted the project, and businesses throughout the town changed their symbol. After moving to New Bern almost a year ago, Brendon decided to pitch this idea locally. More than ten businesses across New Bern, including the City of New Bern, have decided to adopt Brendon's Accessible Icon Project.
"I felt excited when New Bern adopted the accessible icon for the first city in North Carolina," he said.
Brendon's parents, Tim and Darcy Hildreth, said they are happy the city is now on board with the project.
"He's a hard worker and believes what he's doing, and he really wants to be a leader," Tim Hildreth said.
"People aren't just seeing it as just a new painting, but they really understand the message," Darcy Hildreth said.
New Bern Public Information Officer Colleen Roberts said Brendon's presentation to the Board of Aldermen blew the city away. The city plans to adopt the icon for all city-owned handicap parking spaces.
"The Board of Aldermen and the Mayor didn't waste a single second debating it. We knew it was the way to move New Bern forward in a really positive direction," Roberts said.
The City of New Bern said it plans to start changing the symbol in all city-owned handicap parking spaces in the next month.