Apple proposes new emoji to better represent individuals with disabilities

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Apple is seeking to fill a significant gap in the emoji gamut by proposing new characters that reflect people with disabilities.

A March 2018 proposal submitted by the company to the Unicode Consortium says,

Currently, emoji provide a wide range of options, but may not represent the experiences of those with disabilities. Diversifying the options available helps fill a significant gap and provides a more inclusive experience for all.

Apple says its proposal — which covers four main categories: Blind and Low Vision; Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Physical Motor; and Hidden Disabilities —  is not meant to be comprehensive but ‘to provide an initial starting point for greater representation for diversity within the emoji universe’.

The 13 new emoji were developed with major US disability organisations including the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the National Association of the Deaf.

They include a guide dog with harness, a person with a white cane, an ear with a hearing aid, persons in electric and manual wheelchairs, figures signing, prosthetic limbs and a service dog with vest and leash.

In its submission Apple says:

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 approved, the new emoji will debut in 2019.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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