Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion

Step into a world where every learner feels seen, valued, and included in their educational journey. Welcome to Smarty Symbols, where we celebrate the power of visual supports to break barriers and foster inclusive learning environments. Our symbol library is not just a collection of images; it’s a testament to the belief that representation matters.

Our Journey Towards Inclusivity

Our Journey Towards Inclusivity

At Smarty Symbols, our story began with a simple yet powerful mission: to promote diversity, inclusivity, and representation in the world of educational images and symbols. As a speech-language pathologist and software developer, our founder, Barbara Fernandes, recognized the significant lack of diverse representation in image libraries available for creating educational apps. Fueled by a desire to change the status quo, she embarked on a journey to create a symbol library that truly represented humanity, giving every child a window and mirror to a world where everyone belongs.

A Step Towards Equality: Introducing Violet

A Step Towards Equality: Introducing Violet

In the early days of Smarty Symbols, Barbara took her first step towards equality by introducing Violet, our first female character. The existing image libraries predominantly featured male characters, leaving girls unseen in visual representation. Barbara knew that this had to change, and Violet was born to bring gender equality to our symbol library.

In a world where leading symbols set for visual resources often depicted only male characters, we dared to challenge the norms and make a bold statement. Violet stood tall as a symbol of empowerment for every girl, young and old, who had been yearning to see themselves represented in their communication and learning materials. No, a stick figure with no hair, clothes or mouth is not gender neutral.

With her arrival, the boundaries of representation expanded, and the canvas of possibilities widened.

Expanding the Team: Meet Will, Maria, and Lia

At Smarty Symbols, our journey is a celebration of diversity, representation, and the power of inclusivity. As a women-owned and led business, we recognize the significance of female representation and its profound impact on shaping the educational landscape. From the very beginning, our mission has been to provide a symbol library that truly reflects the rich tapestry of humanity, where every child can see themselves in the resources they use.

As Smarty Symbols journeyed towards its vision of inclusivity, our character team flourished, bringing to life the vibrant personalities of Will, Maria, and Lia. Led by Barbara’s unyielding commitment to representation, these characters embody the essence of diverse backgrounds, real-life connections, and unwavering dedication to empowerment.

Meet Will

A Tribute to Friendship and Heritage

Will’s journey began as a heartfelt homage to Barbara’s childhood friend from Brazil, but his significance extends far beyond the realm of personal connections. In Will, we proudly introduced the very first black character in the Smarty Symbols family—an essential step towards representation and diversity.

As our character team grew, Will’s creation marked a pivotal moment in our commitment to inclusivity. With his unique style, distinct clothes, and captivating hairstyle, Will embodies the vibrant identity of a young black individual, becoming a beacon of empowerment for learners worldwide.

His presence in our symbol set champions the value of representation, ensuring that learners of all backgrounds see themselves reflected in their educational resources. With Will, we bridge the gap of underrepresentation, creating a more inclusive world where every child feels seen and valued.

Meet Maria

Latin Roots, Friendship, and Individuality

Maria graces our symbol set as a testament to the transformative power of friendship, heritage, and the beauty of Latin roots. Named after one of Barbara’s earliest friends upon her arrival in the United States, Maria embodies the profound connections that define our lives. As the second female character in our symbol library, Maria stands tall as a symbol of togetherness, where backgrounds intertwine, and unique journeys converge.

Maria’s name, derived from the Latin root, symbolizes the rich cultural heritage she represents. With every image of Maria, we celebrate the contributions and diversity of the Latin community, honoring the invaluable tapestry of Latin roots that enriches our society.

Like all Smarty Symbols Characters, with her own distinctive hair and clothing style, Maria represents the beauty of individuality. Through her visual representation, learners are encouraged to embrace their uniqueness, fostering self-confidence and a sense of belonging.

Say: Hello Lia!

Meet our  fifth team member

As our character team expanded, Lia joined our symbol set, radiating the spirit of empowerment and embracing her distinctive individuality. Named after a Brazilian speech-language pathologist friend, Lia embodies the profound impact of representation and the celebration of unique features and style. Her presence reflects the importance of crafting resources that uplift educators and therapists worldwide, nurturing a sense of belonging and pride in learners.

Lia’s addition to our character team further enriches our Character of Choice plan. As a small business, creating thousands of new images with a new character requires dedicated effort and care. Lia’s arrival showcases our commitment to expanding the representation of diverse backgrounds and experiences, offering educators and therapists more options to create visual supports that resonate with their learners.

In 2015, Smarty Symbols officially introduced the concept of “Character of Choice,” where multiple character options are provided for the same visual representation.

Character of Choice

What is “Character of Choice”?

Character of Choice is a revolutionary concept introduced by Smarty Symbols in their symbol set library. It empowers users, especially learners with communication challenges, to choose from multiple characters to represent the same symbol or concept. Instead of being limited to a single representation, learners now have the freedom to select a character that reflects their individuality, cultural background, age, and style.

Every single word that has a human represented in our symbol set now offers a version represented by all of our unique characters. This means that learners have the power to choose from a diverse range of characters, each with their own distinct traits and backgrounds, for every symbol.

This concept breaks away from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach and embraces the power of diversity and inclusivity.

Practical Applications

Character of Choice has several practical applications in various real-life scenarios, particularly in the realm of educational materials, communication tools, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and therapy resources. Here are some specific examples of its practical applications:

Reflecting on Our 2015 Game-Changing Press Release: Introducing Character of Choice

Time has flown by since that momentous day when we proudly released our press statement on May 28, 2015 announcing the birth of “Character of Choice” within our Smarty Symbols platform. Looking back, it feels like we were embarking on an audacious mission to transform the landscape of visual support materials for learners everywhere. And indeed, we did just that.

In the years leading up to this breakthrough, I vividly recall the frustrating limitations in the symbol sets available for learners with communication challenges. The lack of diverse representation was evident in the scarcity of characters representing different backgrounds, genders, and ages. The idea that a stick figure without hair, and with a white “skin” was gender and ethic neutral was a concept impossible to swallow. It never was. This stark absence of inclusivity fueled my determination to create something different – something groundbreaking.

“Character of Choice” came to life as a realization of our commitment to representation and inclusivity. We asked ourselves a fundamental question: Why should learners be confined to a singular representation in their visual support materials? Why not offer them the power to choose characters that truly resonated with their unique selves?

Looking ahead, we see a future where Character of Choice is embraced across educational settings, where learners find characters that resonate with their identities, and where the power of visual supports truly empowers them to thrive.

As I sign off, I’m filled with gratitude for the support and inspiration we’ve received on this incredible journey. Thank you for being a part of our story, for believing in the transformative power of representation, and for joining us in shaping a world where every learner is seen, heard, and celebrated.

  • Barbara Fernandes, Founder of Smarty Symbols

Even more characters: Al, Hannah & Kenji

At Smarty Symbols, we take immense pride in the process of crafting each and every illustration for our character team. Each character you encounter in our symbol set is the result of a labor of love, skillfully brought to life by our talented artists. There are thousands of images to be crated for each new character.

Creating these visual representations takes time and dedication. Our team invest their creativity and expertise to ensure that every character embodies a unique personality, style, and background. From the tiniest details of their clothing and hairstyles, our characters are carefully crafted to resonate with users from all walks of life.

As we continue to evolve and grow, our commitment to representation remains unwavering. We’re dedicated to expanding our character offerings, providing an ever-growing array of symbol options that truly reflect the diverse world we live in.

Alcides & Bela

Alcides and Bela were Smarty Symbols first elderly characters. They can be a great choice as a character for our wise group who need to use a SGDs.


With Greek, Latin, and Indo-European origins, the name Diana means “divine.” She is our adult character!


The name Kenji is primarily a male name of Japanese origin that means Wise, Peace, Healing.


As a Japanese name, Hanna it is usually translated as flower (花); Which is why she has a flower on her hair.

Looking Ahead

As we reflect on our progress and the impact we’ve made, we still need your Support. Here is why:

Embracing Diversity in AAC Symbol Options

We acknowledge that established players in the market, have a long-standing presence, and their symbols have been widely integrated into various AAC software. However, we believe that true progress comes from embracing diversity and providing AAC users with a wide range of symbol options that reflect the modern world. Despite our efforts, we have faced challenges in getting our symbols integrated into some AAC software manufacturers, which can create an unequal playing field in the AAC industry. But let us be clear: This isn’t about undermining the work of others or engaging in a competition for dominance. Instead, it is a call for a level playing field, where all symbol sets, including ours, have an equal opportunity to be considered and embraced. We firmly believe that users should have access to diverse and representative symbol options, allowing them to express themselves more authentically and comfortably. Together, let us build a future where AAC users can choose from a myriad of symbols that truly reflect their identities and aspirations, and where every symbol set, no matter the origin, is given an equal opportunity to shine.

Expanding Symbol Library:

We are committed to continually enriching our symbol library with even more diverse and inclusive images. Our goal is to represent an ever-widening spectrum of cultures, abilities, and backgrounds, ensuring that every student can find visual supports that resonate with their unique experiences.

Expanding Impact: Supporting All Students Through Visual Supports

Looking ahead, Smarty Symbols is committed to expanding our reach and making a broader impact across school districts. Our vision is to empower not only special education teachers but also general education educators with the power of visual supports. We firmly believe that visual aids can enhance the learning experience for all students, regardless of their individual needs or abilities.

By advocating for the inclusion of Smarty Symbols Studio in general education classrooms, we aim to reduce the workload on special education personnel and foster a more inclusive learning environment for all students. When general education teachers have access to our extensive symbol library and user-friendly designer tool, they can effortlessly create personalized visual materials to support their diverse classrooms.

A Story of Empowerment and Immigrant Resilience

In each character’s name, a story unfolds—a narrative of real-life connections, interwoven backgrounds, and the resilience of immigrants seeking to make a difference. Barbara’s journey as an immigrant from Brazil imprints on every aspect of Smarty Symbols, infusing it with the values of change, progress, and inclusivity.

Through our character team, we challenge norms and defy stereotypes, creating a symbol library that mirrors the diverse tapestry of humanity. The beauty of our character team lies in the celebration of unique identities, welcoming learners of all backgrounds to embrace their extraordinary selves.

As Smarty Symbols continues to grow, we remain dedicated to empowering every learner, therapist, and educator with the tools to thrive in an inclusive world of education. With Will, Maria, Lia, and an expanding team of diverse characters, we are shaping a future where representation matters, and every individual feels seen, valued, and included.

Together, we walk hand in hand, forging a path towards an extraordinary world of learning, belonging, and unity. Our character team is not just a collection of images—it is a testament to the transformative power of education, the embrace of diversity, and the strength that lies within each and every one of us.

Create visual support more efficiently with access to Smarty Symbols Studio

We offer affordable monthly and yearly plans. Take advantage of our yearly plans to save big!

Standard Access

  • Unlimited Daily Download of 30000 images
  • Access the printing Center and Download
  • Total of $132/year

Standard Access

  • When paid yearly
  • Save $42 each year.
  • Total of $89.99/year