Individuals and families come in all forms and shapes, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from browsing popular forms of media. Recently, companies have begun looking beyond the status quo and depicting characters that differ beyond the straight, blond-hair, blue-eyed token hero. How is Apple embracing this goal? By releasing inclusive emojis for its devices this fall.
On July 17 – a.k.a. World Emoji Day – the company unveiled 20 of 59 images that will be taking over our phones, tablets, computers, and watches later this year. Yes, the expected cutesy animals (welcome to the sloth, flamingo, and orangutan) and food (including a plate of falafel) are in the mix. Perhaps most notable, though, are Apple’s diversity-embracing emojis.
“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,” the company said in a statement regarding their latest release.
After rolling out emojis representing diverse professions for both men and women last year, the tech giant is now introducing disability-themed depictions. There will be a guide dog, ear equipped with a hearing aid, wheelchairs, a prosthetic arm and leg, and a person using sign language, all of which can be personalized with skin tone.
Relationships get a new take, too. The forthcoming emoticons will include skin-color and gender variations of the “holding hands couple,” adding 75 possible combinations to existing emojis. The package includes gender-neutral characters and additional professions.
What may seem like an amusing tech gimmick to some is a form of acknowledgement to others. According to Unicode Consortium, a whopping 92 percent of the global population incorporates emojis in their messaging to “enable people around the world to use computers in any language.” These little images have the ability to transcend language and cultural barriers. Now, they’ll serve as identity validation, too.
“Since so many young people (and old) use emojis in their daily communications online, being represented is a way of respecting and honoring the wide diversity that exists,” Peggy Gillespie, the Co-Director and Founder of the Family Diversity Projects tells Parentology. “Being marginalized or made invisible hurts, so I’m certain there are countless kids and families who will be delighted to have a choice of emojis that represent who they are.”
Apple’s 59 new emoji designs are scheduled to be released along with a free software update for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch later this fall.