Apple has been diversifying its emoji list by including curly-haired figures, breastfeeding moms, women in hijabs and more.
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Apple is proposing a series of accessibility emoji to launch in early 2019, including a guide dog, different types of wheelchairs, a hearing aid, prosthetic limbs, and people using canes and sign language to better represent users with disabilities.
“Diversifying the options available helps fill a significant gap and provides a more inclusive experience for all,” the iPhone maker wrote in its proposal to the Unicode Consortium, which approves emoji.
Apple noted that one in seven people around the world has some form of disability. There are 285 million people with blindness or low vision worldwide, and 360 million individuals are deaf or hard of hearing. These icons “can be used not only to represent one’s own personal experience, but also to show support for a loved one,” Apple said. And as these don’t cover every disability, Apple plans to add more accessible emoji in future updates.
This is the latest in a broadening effort to expand the diversity of the current range of emoji and create more ways for users to communicate. Last fall, Apple launched hundreds of new emoji in its iOS 11.1 software update that included gender-neutral characters, a Muslim woman in a headscarf and a breastfeeding mom, as well as more frivolous figures like dinosaurs, a wizard, a vampire and a head of broccoli. Moneyish previously reported the news of that emoji roll-out last July, when Apple teased the initial announcement on World Emoji Day (yes, that’s a thing).
Emoji are now used at least 60 million times per day in Facebook postings, and a stunning five billion times daily in messages exchanged on Facebook’s Messenger app, according to AdWeek. What’s more, previous data from Swyft Media found that emoticons are used at least six billion times a day in text message communications between smartphones, according to a 2015 report from Digiday.
That said, emoji have come under fire for their lack of diversity in recent years. A 2015 article in Wired highlighted some issues, noting that Apple was criticized for years for the “lack of skin color options in its emoji, which was finally addressed in the iOS 8.3 update,” and that it could also use more “culturally diverse emoji … things like places of worship, popular food, clothing styles, transportation, and methods are still generally very westernized in appearance.”
It’s clear that Apple is intending to ramp up its diversity. This follows in line with past emoji expansions, which have introduced emoticons such as symbols for LGBTQ couples.
This article was originally published on Oct. 6, 2017 and has been updated with the proposal for accessibility emoji.
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