Why we need emoji representing people with disabilities

When Carrie Wade first heard the news that Apple was proposing emoji to represent people with disabilities, she was happy, and then curious to know what kind of emojis Apple had brought out. Wade has cerebral palsy and works at the American Association of People with Disabilities. Finally, emoji made specifically for people like her felt like an important step forward.

"Of course there will be people who say this does not matter and it does not matter," says Wade The Verge . "But this is one of those instances of small-scale media representation that is there now and that was not there before." That kind of progress is always good. "She was also" pleasantly surprised "to see the emoji of the service dog.

Apple presented a proposal for the 13 new emoji to the Unicode Consortium a couple of weeks ago, including a prosthetic arm and leg, hearing aids, as well as people who use sign language and a wheelchair, the emoji were well received, although several people in the community pointed out that they are just a starting point.

"Really when you look at the diversity among disabilities, this represents part of the community but not of all, "says Rachel Byrne, VP of projects and programs at the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, but adds," It's wonderful to have diversity within the emojis. " his proposal, Apple acknowledged that the emoji "are not intended to be a complete list")

Apple also worked with the Foundation for Cerebral Palsy, as the American Council of the Blind and the Association N deaf, to develop the emoji. Ideas bounced and the results are exciting, according to Tony Stephens, director of advocacy and government affairs at the American Council of the Blind.

Stephens says he's excited that emoji includes a person with a white cane, the universal symbol for the blind, instead of a person wearing sunglasses, which is more of a stereotype. Having a white cane emoji can also help educate people about what the cane means, so that drivers can pay more attention when they see a pedestrian who uses one. "Awareness of the diversity of people who use smartphones these days," he says.

Representation has long been a problem in the media. Movies and TV shows often resort to stereotypes when it comes to characters with disabilities: often blind people with intensified senses are presented, such as better hearing, says Stephens. Disability is also often related to the tragedy on the screen, says Wade.

Improvements have been made lately: Stephens points to an announcement by M & T Bank incidentally including a blind woman with a guide dog, while Byrne mentions the television program Without Words . But there is still a long way to go, and Apple's emojis are a step in the right direction. "Having access and inclusion of all types is a priority in technology is a big problem," says Wade, "so I hope, in any small way, that this indicates progress and also just means that people can have fun and have more options of how they express themselves. "

While we wait for the emoji to be approved, what could happen as soon as this month, The Verge spoke with Wade about what she thinks of the emojis, how they can be improved and why they matter.

The interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.

What do you think about the emoji?

I think it's a great development. The Emojis are a kind of emerging language, especially among younger generations, so it's always good to see those types of progress, be more inclusive and not be the same icons we've all seen since we were 12 years old. and first starting on the internet. Of course, there are deficiencies: the disability is too large to be completely encapsulated in any type of emoji. But I thought it was good that those deficiencies were recognized in advance. So, although there is certainly room for improvement, I am excited to see this progress. Hopefully everything will be approved and well received and used frequently, so that the subsequent inclusion that was not part of this first round is possible in the future.

What are the deficiencies?

There are certain disabilities that are largely invisible, which may be difficult to illustrate exactly for that reason, [like] any kind of chronic illness, psychiatric disability, developmental disabilities. The community of people with disabilities is large and there are people with disabilities in all other demographic groups. Disability is not only seen in a way, it not only feels in a way, it does not manifest in a way in someone's body or mind. So expanding the definition of disability beyond apparent physical disabilities to include a larger swath … definitely is a progress we need everywhere, including emoji options and technology communication.