Apple Proposes Adding Disability-Inclusive Emojis to the Unicode Consortium


Emojis of people using wheelchairs, service dogs, hearing aids and more could be coming to your iPhone. On Friday, Apple submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium — the non-profit that reviews requests for new emojis.

Apple’s request includes a total of 13 new emojis. The emojis fall into four categories, deaf and hard of hearing, blind and low vision, physical disabilities, and hidden disabilities, according to the company’s proposal. Apple collaborated with the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the National Association of the Deaf.

“The current selection of emoji provides a wide array of representations of people, activities, and objects meaningful to the general public, but very few speak to the life experiences of those with disabilities,” Apple states in its proposal. “At Apple, we believe that technology should be accessible to everyone and should provide an experience that serves individual needs. Adding emoji emblematic to users’ life experiences helps foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability.”

Apple is not the first to call for disability-inclusive emojis. People with disabilities have been asking for more inclusive emojis for years. In 2016, Scope, a U.K.-based nonprofit which promotes inclusion for people with disabilities, released 18 emojis featuring disabled people and highlighting the Paralympics. None of these emojis, however, are part of the Unicode keyboard.

Currently, there is only one disability-related emoji — the “wheelchair symbol” — despite the fact that approximately 20 percent of the population lives with a disability. Fictional creatures, like mermaids and zombies, on the other hand, have 14 different emojis. According to Scope, of the 4,000 Twitter users they polled, 65 percent of users said one emoji wasn’t enough to represent the full spectrum of disability.

Below are some of the emojis you can expect should Apple’s proposal go through.

The deaf and hard of hearing emojis will include a man and woman making the sign for “deaf.” A third will show an ear with a hearing aid.

Woman emoji signing deaf

Man emoji signing deaf

emoji of ear with hearing aid

The blind and low vision emojis include a man and a woman using a white cane, and a guide dog with a harness.

Emoji of man using a cane Emoji of woman using a cane

Emoji of dog with harness

For physical disabilities, Apple proposed emojis of people using wheelchairs and electric chairs as well as images of a prosthetic arm and leg.

Emoji of woman using a wheelchair Emoji of man using a wheelchair Emoji of man using an electric wheelchair Emoji of woman using an electric wheelchair Emoji of a prosthetic arm Emoji of prosthetic leg

For hidden disabilities, Apple proposed a service dog with a vest because service dogs are used for various disabilities and disorders such as epilepsy and PTSD.

Emoji of service dog with vest

Images via Apple


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