Thing 5 & 6: Diversity and Accessibility

Thing 5: Diversity

The University of Edinburgh is committed to equality of opportunity for all its staff and students. Diversity and representation is just as important in our online and digital tools as it is in the office and classroom.

A lot of communication online now includes the use of emoji/emoticon images. Traditionally these have been displayed as a yellow standard, but recent releases of more diverse emoji choices have raised a number of conversations.

How to complete Thing 5

Step 1

Read the two articles below on reactions to the Apple and Facebook release of diverse emoji/emoticons in 2015 and 2016.

How Apple’s new multicultural emojis are more racist than before, Paige Tutt, The Washington Post, April 2015

Yeah, Facebook Messenger’s New Diverse Emoji Actually Matter, Hillary Hanson, Huffpost, January 2016

As time has passed, so have opinions and research in the use of diverse emoji:

Emoji diversity: how ‘silly little faces’ can make a big difference, Olivia Solon, The Guardian, Nov 2016

How diverse Emojis Encourage More Social Inclusion, Elaina Zachos, National Geographic, Apr 2018

And here’s the study the article refers to:

Roberston, A., Madgdy, W, and Goldwater, S. (2018). Self-Representation on Twitter Using Emoji Skin Color Modifiers, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Step 2

Now consider the emoji alternative Bitmoji.

Bitmoji allows users to create their own avatar through the app and this avatar is then used in a range of cartoon emoticons that can be used as part of a conversation.

Bitmojis, the avatars of conversation

Optional: Visit the Bitmoji website and experiment with the avatar creation.

Step 3

Write a blog post on your thoughts around diverse representation online, emojis, and options such as Bitmoji. If you went ahead and created your own Bitmoji, share it with us on your blog.

Additional Resources

Anti-Racist Bystander Information – This is a small collection of online resources which offers various kinds of advice on what you can do if you are  witness to hate speech.

Can computers be racist? Big data, inequality, and discrimination – An excellent article, including video of a lecture given by Dr. Latanya Sweeney, on how big data can perpetuate and exacerbate existing systems of racism, discrimination, and inequality.

The University’s e-Diversity in the Workplace training module is available for all staff to undertake in their own time. It takes roughly an hour to complete the module, but you can pause and come back at any time. (If you are from somewhere else,  see if your institution/school/workplace offers any diversity training. If they don’t why not suggest it?)

Thing 6: Accessibility

Online technology has the potential to be inclusive and accessible to many people when used correctly, but can also provide some challenges.

When creating online content always keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t only convey information through colour or an image. Ensure there are text alternatives to enable people with sight impairments to access the information.
  • Ensure that text can be resized.
  • Ensure that font and colour can be changed: on the Web this can be done through Cascading Style Sheets.
  • Avoiding using animations, and if it is necessary to use them please provide a warning.
  • Ensure that your online materials can be accessed without using a mouse.
  • Videos should be subtitled or accompanied by a transcript for those with hearing impairments and feature descriptions for those with visual impairments.
  • Use inclusive and respectful language and avoid unnecessarily using gendered terms

How to complete Thing 6

Step 1

Read through the collection of selected scenarios of people with disabilities using the Web. These stories highlight the effect of web accessibility barriers and the broader benefits of accessible websites and web tools.

Web Accessibility Initiative – Stories of web users

Read through the following article by Sabrina Fonesca, a User Experience Designer:

Designing forms for gender diversity and inclusion,, April 2017

Step 2

A) Select a website, either one that you have made or worked on yourself, or a website that you visit regularly. Copy and paste the website address into the Website Accessibility eValuation Tool (WAVE). What errors do you find? Are there some you were unaware could make accessibility difficult?


B) Investigate the accessibility features on your mobile phone, tablet, or device.

Apple iOS / Android / Windows


C) Reflect on the gendered experience you’ve had using online forms and technologies.

Step 3

Write a short blog post about your findings, either with the website or your device. Some points you may want to cover in your post could include:

  • Were you surprised by anything you found?
  • Did you discover anything new that is particularly useful to you?
  • Has this changed how you view websites, apps, forms, and devices?
Additional Resources

Technology and the Power of Promise – In this video presentation, Robin Christopherson explains how technology can be empowering for someone with  a visual or motor impairment, but also how poorly thought out design can be incredibly difficult and how we can work to support everyone.