Emoji, the set of images that have come to define contemporary communication, have, at times, been contentious. While technology is often assumed to be a signifier of our progressive, "post-bias" future, it actually reflects the values and interests of the people who design it, most of whom tend to be extremely privileged and removed from the rest of the world.
For a long time, there were no skin tone options besides white, and no emoji depicting women in professional roles, indicating that the people who designed emoji didn't think people of color or women deserved adequate or accurate representation. Unicode, the company that regulates which emoji make it to our phones, has since attempted to ameliorate those problems by introducing more diverse images.
Now, Apple is trying to address another underlying issue with emoji — the lack of representation of people with disabilities. They have submitted a proposal for more emoji including images like wheelchairs, hearing aids, and service dogs. In their proposal, Apple writes that they want to foster inclusive spaces and progressive discourse.
They write, "One in seven people around the world has some form of disability, whether that be a physical disability involving vision, hearing, or loss of physical motor skills, or a more hidden, invisible disability. 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."
Read the entire statement here.
Image via Getty