An emoji is worth a thousand words — or at least a few text messages. So Apple wants to make sure everyone feels represented.
On Friday, the tech giant proposed several new emojis that represent the experiences of people living with disabilities to the Unicode Consortium — the organization that oversees international standards for emojis — CNN reported.
The proposed emojis focus on increasing the representation of people with impaired vision, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with limited physical and motor skills, and people with hidden disabilities.
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"Currently, emoji provide a wide range of options, but may not represent the experiences of those with disabilities," the company stated in its proposal. "Diversifying the options available helps fill a significant gap and provides a more inclusive experience for all."
The emojis include service and guide dogs, an ear with a hearing aid, and people with canes and in wheelchairs — in both genders.
So far, Apple has suggested just 13 emojis, but hopes these will pave the way for more emojis representing people with disabilities in the future.
Over the past few years, diversity among emojis has increased, driven by companies like Apple and Google. In 2015, Apple led the push to create emojis of different skin tones and the following year Google proposed a set of emojis featuring women in a wider range of professions.
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While increasing the diversity of emojis may seem inconsequential, the world is increasingly reliant on text messaging and other forms of digital communication, and it’s important for people using those platforms to feel represented.
“Emoji may seem trivial, just silly little faces, but when you aren’t represented by something that’s so widely used, it’s a problem,” Kate Miltner, a researcher who has examined the development of emojis, told the Guardian. “The values either intentionally – or unintentionally – baked into the systems we use on a daily basis can deeply impact people and how they navigate their world.”
Apple developed the proposed emojis in cooperation with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, the National Association of the Deaf, and the American Council of the Blind, Venture Beat reported. If approved, the new emojis are expected to be released next year.
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