In something of a rare sensitivity slip-up for Apple, the company is being blasted by STAMMA, the British Stammer Association, over an emoji recommendation that seemingly mocks people with the speech disorder also known as a stutter.
When users write the word “stammering” in the iPhone’s predictive keyboard, it suggests the comical “woozy face” emoji as a substitute. STAMMA CEO Jane Powell described this as “demeaning and damaging.”
“Stammering is how some people talk,” Powell said. “Treating it as a joke is stigmatizing. It can leave people embarrassed about how they sound, bullied and ashamed which can affect their mental health, careers and relationships.”
Podcaster and rapper Scroobius Pip, a patron of STAMMA, described the use of the emoji as “a shocking choice from Apple. Of course it’s just an emoji … but it’s the small, everyday things like this which strengthen the misconceptions of stammerers and serve to further alienate.”
According to STAMMA, up to 8% of kids have a stammer at some point, and around 3% of adults do as well.
Doing the right thing
In Apple’s defense, to stammer does not always refer to a speech disorder. While it always means to leave pauses or include repeated sounds with speech, this may also be due to fear or nervousness. Apple’s connotation suggests nervousness, such as a person turning red (seen through the flushed cheeks on the emoji) and nervously or awkwardly delivering speech.
But this is also a rare oversight on Apple’s part. It’s not hard to see why people might be upset by seeing a stammer presented in this way.
Apple, a company which has a history of doing the right thing when it comes to areas like accessibility, may well want to revisit this and make the necessary changes. This wouldn’t be the first time Apple’s changed an emoji, thereby showing that it appreciates how significant they can be as a shorthand. During the pandemic, Apple changed its mask-wearing emoji from a sad face to a happy face. Was this totally necessary? Probably not. But if it had a subtle impact on pushing folks to mask up, it was a good move to make. The same is the case here.
What do you think about the criticism? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Source: Birmingham Mail