Apple Proposes Disability Emoji

Collage credit: @emojipedia

Apple has proposed nine new emoji to better represent people with disabilities. It says the selection is based on the quantity of online searches for particular terms.

According to Apple:

The current selection of emoji provides a wide array of representations of people, activities, and objects meaningful to the general public, but very few speak to the life experiences of those with disabilities. At Apple, we believe that technology should be accessible to everyone and should provide an experience that serves individual needs. Adding emoji emblematic to users’ life experiences helps foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability.

The nine proposed emoji are:

  • a guide dog with harness
  • a person with a white cane
  • a person making the most popular sign language gesture for deafness
  • an ear with a hearing aid
  • a person in a motorized wheelchair
  • a person in a mechanical wheelchair
  • a mechanical or prosthetic arm
  • a mechanical or prosthetic arm
  • a service dog with vest and leash.

Where appropriate, the proposal also covers different gender and skin tone versions of the emoji.

Apple’s explanation for its choices reflects some of the difficulties of representing different disabilities. For example, it says using a motorized wheelchair to represent somebody who uses a mechanical wheelchair (or vice versa) could misrepresent the nature of their disabilities. Meanwhile having separate emojis for a harnessed dog and one with a leash is designed to distinguish between people whose dog helps with their visual disabilities and people with “hidden disabilities such as Autism, seizures, anxiety, PTSD, etc.”

Apple also noted that the emoji design is limited by the small size at which the icons appear. It says it did consider designs which simply had a cane, wheelchair or hearing aid, but that these weren’t clear and distinctive enough at small scale.

The proposal will now be considered by the Unicode Consortium.

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