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One Disability Doesn’t Represent All

Collage of emojis portraying people with disabilities playing sports

Image Credit: Scope

Emojis reflect popular culture and society. We use them to carry on conversations, identify objects in everyday life, and share our emotions via social networks and email.

Like the diversity of people in the real world, emojis should represent this diversity.

The good news is emojis are becoming more and more diverse. For example, release of images to depict varied skin tones and sexualities last year was a positive step.

However, there are still areas to improve on, including representing persons with disabilities. Oddly, out of the 1000+ characters, featuring various foods, sports, animals, cultures, holidays, and more, there is only one emoji representing disabled persons.

"It’s disappointing that disabled people are represented with just one emoji — the wheelchair user sign," said Rosemary Frazer, campaign manager at Scope, which is a London-based disability advocacy group.

"This one symbol can’t represent me and the disabled people I know. To truly represent the world we live in, disabled people should be included in a way that reflects the diversity of our lives," she said.

To celebrate World Emoji Day last July, Scope created 18 new emojis representing disabled people and Paralympic sports. The symbols include people in wheelchairs, individuals with prosthetics, individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired, and even a guide dog.

The new emojis are exciting and shareable but are not part of the official emoji list the nonprofit Unicode Consortium maintains and shares worldwide. The process of creating and releasing official emojis is handled by Unicode, which wields unusual pop-culture power.

Perhaps this set of unofficial emojis will inspire Unicode to release official emojis in the near future that better represent the wide array of people in our world with various disabilities.

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