If you don’t have a disability, or a friend, colleague or family member who does, it’s often easy to miss a disability.
Yes, some disabilities are easy to see. But many aren’t.
For example, so called non-visible disabilities include cognitive conditions like dyslexia.
Dyslexia is extremely widespread, with ten to 15 per cent of the world’s population having dyslexia or another learning disability.
And even if people have a disability that makes it obvious to others (e.g. because they use a wheelchair) it doesn’t mean most non-disabled people understand how it actually affects people’s lives.
Positive representation is critical
We produce meaning and knowledge about what it means to be disabled based on the discussions and debates we have around disability every day.
Unfortunately much of this discourse is based around ideas of what disabled can’t do, not what they can do.
But it’s critical for disabled people to be equally and fairly represented in society in a positive way.
This lets non-disabled people know that people with disabilities exist.
It gives people with disabilities a voice.
And it lets non-disabled people better understand disabilities and learn about the reality of what it is like to have a disability, particularly the everyday barriers that exist for people with disabilities.
We need to normalise disability
The more is done to normalise disability and make everyone realise that it’s an everyday thing for the one billion people around the world who have a disability, the more accessible and inclusive the world will be.
Because the more non-disabled people understand the barriers, the more they should be driven to change their attitudes and behaviour.
And let’s face it, disability isn’t top of the agenda for most people and organisations.
That’s why it’s so important that Apple, as a market leader and one of the most profitable, well-known and well-used brands in the world, has proposed a new set of accessibility emojis.
According to Apple’s proposal to the Unicode Consortium: “Apple is requesting the addition of emojis to better represent individuals with disabilities.
“Currently, emojis provide a wide range of options, but may not represent the experiences of those with disabilities.
“Diversifying the options available helps fill a significant gap and provides a more inclusive experience for all.”
The emojis will represent people with a range of different disabilities and they include a wheelchair user, a guide dog, a hearing aid and prosthetic limbs.
While Apple acknowledges that not all disabilities are represented in its proposal, it states that the proposal is a starting point to be built upon.
And what a great starting point it is.
Human beings are pack animals: we tend to follow the herd. So for Apple, as one of the biggest tech brands in the world, to advocate better representation for disabled people, is a great move to see.
If the emojis are approved they’ll be available to use on phones next year. We can’t wait!