Apple today submitted an official proposal to the Unicode Consortium, requesting a greater variety of emoji representing those with disabilities. The company says it wants to fill a gap that exists in the language of emoji.
The emoji include an ear with a hearing aid, a person making the ASL sign for “deaf,” a person walking with a cane, people in two different wheelchairs, and two kinds of prosthetic limb. It also includes both a guide dog in a harness, and a service dog in a vest, with Apple pointing out the different purposes of each animal and why they should each be included.
The company developed the emoji in collaboration with American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the National Association of the Deaf. According to Emojipedia, these emoji, if approved, could be implemented as early as 2019.
Apple points out in the proposal that one in seven people has a disability of some kind, and that emoji should reflect their lived experience just as it does for everyone else:
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. 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.
If you look, you realize there is indeed a dearth of emoji for this group. There’s the blue wheelchair icon ♿, but that’s hardly a fair representation considering we’ve got everything else from genies to wizards to David Bowie-lookalikes.
Apples says it doesn’t consider its proposed emoji 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.” The proposal also states that Apple considered proposing different colored ribbon emoji, but found there was some inconsistency on which colors represent which causes.