Culture

Apple Has Proposed A Bunch Of New Emojis Representing People With Disabilities

But wheelchair users have some critiques.

new emojis disabilities

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This week Apple proposed a bunch of new emojis to better represent people with disabilities.

It’s about time — we’ve had emojis for everything from tacos to satellites for years, as well as “man in suit levitating”, “alien monster” and mermaids, but nothing depicting wheelchairs, hearing aids, or anything else actually representing people with disabilities.

Apple’s suggestion aims to change that, proposing new emojis including an ear with hearing aid, people using motorised and manual wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, and a guide dog. There’s also a service dog emoji, intended to represent invisible disabilities like mental illnesses and seizures, a person using a probing cane, and an emoji of a person signing “deaf” in American Sign Language.

The proposed emojis need to be approved by the Unicode Consortium, the emoji gatekeepers, before becoming available for use but they’ve been met with pretty wide support on social media so far.

They’ve also been met with some criticism — manual wheelchair users, in particular, have pointed out that the proposed manual wheelchair looks more like the kind of wheelchair used in a hospital or an airport than the kind actually used by people with a long term or permanent disability.

The differences are subtle if you’re not familiar with wheelchairs (hospital chairs have a higher back and armrests which make them harder to self-propel), but they make a difference when it’s the only emoji that actually depicts you. There’s a great article on the differences between wheelchairs — and why they matter — here, if you’re interested.

Hopefully these critiques will be taken on board in the process of creating the emojis — the images so far are just proposals, and these often change. And while there’s no word from the Unicode Consortium yet, they’d better accept these new emojis. It’s about time.