NYCSeatShare Is Not Alone: Tokyo’s Help Mark Badge

Posted on May 11, 2015

For the past year, I have been devising a plan to ensure that my friends with Invisible Disabilities have the same access to subway seats that I have (as someone with a not-so-Invisible disability). This brainstorming led to a concept for a NYCSeatShare badge. And so much has happened since originally posting the idea back in February.

And to my great excitement, this first followup post will introduce you to NYCSeatShare’s newfound friend! This red tag is called the Help Mark badge and it comes from an amazing and faraway land called Tokyo, Japan.

I have reached out to the design team behind the Help Mark badge and hope to bring you more information in a future post. Until then, here is what I have learned about the history, implementation and goals of the Help Mark badge:

Heart Plus mark

Designed in 2003, the Heart Plus ‘Mark’ was created to help indicate the presence of people with invisible disabilities to the general public. The aim was simply to improve the lives of people living with invisible disabilities. The plus sign alongside the heart simply meant an increase in compassion. The mark has been and continues to be free to use and should not be profited from. The website offers free downloads and materials for the general public to use.

Starting in October 2012, the newly designed Help ‘Mark’ first appeared in the form of stickers on the Toei Oedo Line (which is Japan’s second-longest railway tunnel with an estimated 1 million daily ridership). It grew to include more lines and busses in 2013. And in 2014 grew to include all Tokyo transit lines.

help mark badge

In August of 2014, actual physical Help Mark badges became available free of cost. To receive a free Help Mark badge, a person can simply request one online or from any Tokyo station agent. About 50,000 Help Mark badges have been distributed thus far. These badges (or tags) were created by Tokyo based Vector Inc., whose mission is to “recognize and promote understanding”.

Those involved in the Help Mark badge have laid out a 10 year “Tokyo Long-Term Vision” that aims to create a greater understanding of when and why assistance is needed. Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics and Paralympics are just around the corner and Help Mark badge supporters want to ensure the festivities are barrier free.

As I said in the outset, I have reached out to Vector Inc. and Heart Plus to learn more about these symbols and the badge. I look forward to sharing what I learn. I cannot say for sure what, if any influence these designs will have on a NYCSeatShare badge, but to know these exist in the world fills me with hope for NYC’s badge. I want to thank Machiko Yasuda for bringing these to my attention.

Machiko Yasuda Help Mark Badge

It’s amazing what you can discover if you just put something out there. With that thought in mind, the next NYCSeatShare update will introduce you to an amazing designer who has been giving this a lot of thought. I can’t wait for you to meet her!

If you’re curious to see the Help Mark badge online, the hashtag is #ヘルプマーク. This particular tweet stood out:

Help Mark Badge

This is actually my second post about something inclusive originating in Tokyo, Japan. The first was Takafumi Tsuruti’s incredible Tokyo Fashion Week’s runway show. There must be something in the water, and I hope they ship it thisaway. Because it’s truly refreshing.


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What Others Are Saying

  1. Pingback: Commuting with Invisible Disability: An NYCSeatShare Idea - The Girl with the Purple CaneThe Girl with the Purple Cane

  2. Anthony Ptak May 12, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    I can see this as being very useful for persons with invisible dis-ability and I think many people will be surprised how many of us are amongst them too. No scarlet letter, a badge of honor, perhaps.

  3. Julia August 25, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Excellent work! I have an invisible disability and have a rough time of it if I miscalculate and find myself on transit during “rush hour” (which is nowhere NEAR an actual hour in length).
    I will be following your progress with happy anticipation, as it seems to me that if you can get something implemented, it would be silly for me to reinvent the wheel in my city: a continent-wide symbol/methodology would be a much better idea.

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