Apple proposes nine new accessibility emojis

Apple has proposed nine new emoji to the Unicode consortium for
inclusion in the standard set of images. If accepted, they will
appear Emoji 12.0, which is scheduled for release early in
2019. 

In itself, that’s not a big deal, but Apple’s focus here is
laudable. All nine emoji are aimed at better representation for
people with disabilities. Apple makes its intentions clear in
its proposal letter to the Unicode
Consortium.

One in seven people around the world has some form of
disability, whether that be a physical disability involving
vision, hearing, or loss of physical motor skills, or a more
hidden, invisible disability. 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.

The new emoji would represent some of the most common
disabilities. They are:

  • Guide dog with harness
  • Person with cane
  • Ear with hearing aid
  • Deaf sign
  • Person in mechanized wheelchair
  • Person in manual wheelchair
  • Mechanical or prosthetic arm
  • Mechanical or prosthetic leg
  • Service dog with vest and leash

You can see sample images of all nine emoji above, though
different manufacturers are able to interpret the standard
emoji with their own artistic style. The proposed emoji will
have male and female versions where appropriate, and support
skin tones where appropriate. All told, we’re looking at 13
emoji with male/female variants counts, or 45 with those
variations plus skin tones.

These may not be the only emoji in the Emoji 12.0 standard to
represent disabilities. Apple’s letter states that, “This is
not meant to be a comprehensive list of all possible depictions
of disabilities, but to provide an initial starting point for
greater representation for diversity within the emoji
universe.” It is possible that others may be proposed and
adopted before the standard set is finalized next year.

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