In honor of World Emoji Day, Apple revealed new additions to its emoji collection on Wednesday, which will feature more diverse offerings specifically intended to increase representation for people with disabilities.
Around 20 emoji will be added to the collection, with 13 representing the disability community, including a service dog, prosthetic limbs, a wheelchair, a man and woman signing that they are deaf, and an ear with a hearing aid.
"Celebrating diversity in all its many forms is integral to Apple's values and these new options help fill a significant gap in the emoji keyboard," the company said in a statement.
The tech company submitted a proposal for the new set of emoji to Unicode Consortium — the nonprofit organization responsible for approving new emoji — in March 2018 in an effort to be more inclusive of people who are blind or have low vision, deaf and hard of hearing, or living with physical motor or hidden disabilities. Apple also said that it consulted with leading organizations for people with disabilities before finalizing the proposal.
“Emoji are a universal language and a powerful tool for communication, as well as a form of self-expression, and can be used not only to represent one's own personal experience, but also to show support for a loved one,” the company said, explaining the importance of diverse emoji in its proposal.
Kristina Barrick, a spokesperson for Scope — a UK charity providing support to and dispelling misconceptions about people with disabilities — lauded the move as a step in the right direction towards authentic representation for the global disability community.
"We've had ghosts, robots, a poo with a face and even 10 empty squares to choose from, so it's about time emojis started to better represent the 15% of the global population who are disabled," she told CNN.
Apple has emphasized that the new emoji depicting people with disabilities are not representative of the entire population, but serve as a starting point which can be built upon.
Director of external affairs at the National Organization on Disability, Priyanka Ghosh, said the characters could provide other companies and businesses a way to promote more sensitive and accepting environments for employees with disabilities.
“These new emojis will enable 1 billion people with disabilities around the world to more fully and authentically express themselves,” she said in a statement to NBC News.
“Perhaps corporate America can also seize upon these new icons to embed disability seamlessly into their everyday lexicons, enabling employees to better communicate with each other and build more disability-inclusive cultures.”
As part of the initiative to promote inclusion, the “Holding Hands” emoji is also being updated, offering over 75 combinations of gender and skin-tone combinations. The new additions to the emoji family will be available for use with iOS 13 in the fall.