Penny and her friend Rachel call each other twins sometimes. It came about because they realized that they could open each other’s phones without a password. Apple’s facial recognition software couldn’t distinguish one from the other.
On the one hand, this was a fun moment of discovery. It was a moment of bonding.
On the other hand, it’s weird—maybe even offensive?—that Apple can’t distinguish between their two faces. Both faces are round, with button noses and big beautiful eyes with an epicanthal fold of skin that distinguishes them from those of us with the typical 23 pairs of chromosomes. But even though Penny and Rachel both have Down syndrome, they do not have the same face.
Years ago, I went over to Rachel’s house for the first time. Hanging in their kitchen was a long poster with hundreds of faces. Every person was dressed in a black tshirt, photographed from the waist up. Their clothing and posture was the same. They all had Down syndrome. But what is beautifully remarkable about this poster is the way the photographer captured the incredible variety among all the distinctive individuals side by side.
I love that Penny and Rachel can bond and take delight in being “twins.” I also love that they each have their own particular beauty, their distinctive look, and I wish that the Apple facial recognition software was sophisticated enough to see it.
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