Apple proposes to include new emojis that reflect users’ lives with disabilities
Anyone who holds conversations via GIF, meme and/or emoji likely understands that evolving communication technologies and media platforms breed evolving requests for user inclusion. While many users celebrated the digital visuals of darker-skinned people and families with same-sex parents, people who live with disabilities have not yet seen their experiences readily reflected through emojis.
Technology giant Apple wants to include a guide dog, a person in a wheelchair, a prosthetic limb and a service dog, among others characters that would technologically reflect varying levels of human ability. The company submitted a proposal this month to the Unicode Consortium, the non-profit entity that sets emoji standards, on emoji accessibility.
“…Emoji are a universal language and a powerful tool for communication, as well as a form of self-expression, and can be used not only to represent one’s own personal experience, but also to show support for a loved one,” the company stated in its proposal.
Of course, this proposal is not an Earth-shattering instance of policy change. However, the proposal is of human interest and is also timely, given societal reliance on technology. About 95 percent of Americans currently own a cell phone. Of that number, nearly 80 percent own smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center.
In its proposal, Apple identified the need to reflect physical disabilities affecting vision, hearing or loss of physical motor skills, as well as more hidden, “invisible” types of disability, but also acknowledged that the company’s emoji proposal is non-exhaustive.