A dozen icons depicting the experiences of people with disabilities are coming to smartphones and other devices later this year.
The Unicode Consortium — the organization that standardizes the emoji offered by Apple, Google and other device makers — released 59 new emoji this week. Among them are numerous images portraying various aspects of the disability experience.
The new disability-related icons were requested by Apple last year.
“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,” Apple said in its proposal. “This new set of emoji that we are proposing aims to provide a wider array of options to represent basic categories for people with disabilities.”
The new offerings include icons showing people using manual and power wheelchairs, a service dog, a hearing aid and prosthetics, among other special needs. Some of the emoji have male and female versions and variants for skin tone.
Unicode said that the newest icons are likely to become available on mobile phones in September or October.
Apple worked with the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the National Association of the Deaf to develop the disability-specific emoji. The company acknowledged that the additions do not reflect the whole range of experiences of those with disabilities, but said they offer “an initial starting point for greater representation for diversity within the emoji universe.”