Apple says new disability-themed emojis 'fill a significant gap'

Apple says new disability-themed emojis 'fill a significant gap'
© Apple

Apple announced on Wednesday that it is adding emoji characters that represent people with disabilities as a means of filling a “significant gap” and encouraging more inclusion and diversity.

“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,” according to a company statement honoring World Emoji Day.

The new designs include a guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, a person in a wheelchair and multiple prosthetic limbs.

Users will also be able to customize the holding hands emoji, which is typically used to represent couples and relationships, to fit more than 75 possible combinations of gender and skin tone.

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The update also includes new food icons, including a waffle and falafel, animals such as a sloth and orangutan, and items including a sari — a traditional Indian garment — and an orange construction safety vest.

In a letter last March to the Unicode Consortium — which develops standards for the widely used digital icons — Apple proposed the addition of emojis representing people with disabilities to help “foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability.”

Apple worked with disability rights organizations including the American Council of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf to develop the emoji characters.

The 59 new designs will be available this fall as part of a free software update, Apple said.