Apple Unveils Disabled and ‘Gender-Neutral’ Emojis in the Name of More ‘Diversity’

Apple’s latest iOS update includes more diverse emojis to include interracial gay couples, gender-neutral characters, people with disabilities and more.

What started as a number of yellow smiley faces and generic characters with white skin has been updated 18 times since its rollout in 2008 to include a more diverse spectrum of emoji.

The latest rollout of emoji includes interracial couples, gender-neutral characters, characters in wheelchairs and with walking sticks, as well as a service dog. The new set also includes more food and animal symbols such as waffles, butter and a smiling sloth, CNN Business reported Monday.

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Apple sent a proposal for a new set of emoji with disabilities to Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit that upholds the global standard for emoji, in March 2018, according to CNN Business.


“Apple is requesting the addition of emoji to better represent individuals with disabilities,” the March letter stated. “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.”

“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,” the letter continued.

The most-used emojis are relatively generic, with the crying laughing face as No. 1, the smiley face as No. 2 and the sad teardrop face as No. 3, according to Lifewire.

Anyone can submit an emoji request to Unicode but must include “evidence of frequency” as reasoning behind an idea for a new emoji character in any proposal, according to the nonprofit.

Apple also announced its rollout of its new Airpods Pro, which have a noise cancelation feature in a new lightweight design.

“AirPods are the best-selling headphones in the world. The one-tap setup experience, incredible sound and iconic design have made them a beloved Apple product, and with AirPods Pro, we’re taking the magic even further,” Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said in a statement.

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Cover image: Attendees at the 2018 Oslo Pride Parade. (Wikimedia Commons)

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