On Friday, Apple submitted a proposal to Emojipedia for a suite of new accessibility emoji. There are 13 in total, which expands to 43 when you take into account skin tone options. They include a guide and service dog, a person with a cane, a person in both mechanical and manual wheelchairs, a person signing, an ear with a hearing aid, and a prosthetic arm and leg. In Apple’s proposal, it notes that this isn’t an all-encompassing list of accessibility emoji. It’s just a start.
Apple collaborated with the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and the National Association of the Deaf to come up with the emoji listed in the proposal.
“Historically, disabled people have had to kludge together emoji, which is pretty alienating when you consider that 20 per cent of the population is disabled,” journalist s.e. smith, who regularly covers disability issues, told Gizmodo in an email.
“It means a lot for people to be able to select emoji that represent them—this is really key for access and inclusion online,” smith said. “That said, there’s a particular challenge in figuring out a graphic representation of non-evident or ‘invisible’ disabilities like mental illness, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these are tackled in the future.”
Apple’s proposal on Friday, while a proclaimed “initial starting point,” includes accessibility emoji across four different categories—“Blind and Low Vision, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Physical Motor, and Hidden Disabilities”—but as Smith pointed out, it doesn’t feature the emoji to tackle emotional and mental disabilities. Still, given the glaring absence of any emoji for the disabled community to date, this is a step in the right direction.
“[A]s a member of the disability community and an avid emoji user, I’m super excited that the range of emoji available to represent ourselves and our experiences is expanding,” smith said.