Emojis have been a part of our vocabulary for some time now, but new emojis have been announced that will be more inclusive of people with disabilities, significantly expanding expression in conversation. The Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organization that develops, maintains, and promotes software that standardizes digital text internationally on all software platforms, will add 13 emojis (of 59 new additions in total) representing people with disabilities.
Approximately 15% of the world has some kind of disability according to the World Health Organization (WHO), so it’s a victory for accessibility that people with disabilities are gaining representation. From hearing devices to prosthetic legs, to service dogs and wheelchairs, the new emojis are an exciting addition that will feature an array of diverse representational experiences and abilities. There are also men and women pictured moving a finger between their ear and mouth, expressing the sign for "deaf" in American Sign Language
Initiating change and conversation
The inclusion of emojis to better represent people with disabilities comes a year after Apple’s proposal, stating that while the current emojis provide a wide array of options, they were not representative of the experiences of people with disabilities. Apple developed the emojis by consulting and collaborating with internationally known organizations such as American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and the National Association of the Deaf.
More than just a symbol
In Apple’s proposal, they state that they hope these new inclusive emojis will “spark a global dialogue around better representation for people with disabilities.” Their assertion that emojis are a powerful tool for communication as well as self-expression is right, as their new additions may also empower people to more personally communicate their individual experiences. Emojis are a universal language that can transcend cultural barriers, impart ideas, and ultimately make people feel more connected.
Why care about inclusivity?
When we are intentional about ensuring that our society’s communication tools reflect the diversity of ability in our communities, we recognize that diversity makes the world a better place. Not only is inclusive digital accessibility a moral imperative, it’s required by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) established in 1990 to provide civil rights protection to people with disabilities and making discrimination on the basis of disability illegal.
Web and mobile compliance is a requirement, but it can be confusing to understand WCAG 2.1 Guidelines and how they relate to other compliance requirements under the law. At BoIA, we’re committed to helping businesses improve, maintain, and prove the accessibility of their websites. Contact us for an obligation-free consultation or start with a free and confidential website accessibility scan.