Tech

Disability-themed emojis approved for use.

The introduction of dozens of new disability-themed emojis has been welcomed by disability rights campaigners.

The new characters include hearing aids, wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, white “probing” canes and guide dogs.

They follow a complaint by Apple that few existing emojis spoke to the experiences of those with disabilities.

Their inclusion in 2019’s official list means many smartphones should gain them in the second half of the year.

“Social media is hugely influential and it’s great to see these new disability-inclusive emojis,” said Phil Talbot, from the disability charity Scope.

“Up to now, disability has been greatly underrepresented.

“We’d also like to see greater representation of disabled people and disability across all parts of the media and social media.”

Approved art

A total of 230 new emojis feature in what is the sixth major update to the official list.

It is maintained by a California-based group made up of representatives of computing companies, software developers and others, who ensure that users of different devices and apps can send emojis to each other.

The various platform owners – including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Facebook and Twitter – can tweak Unicode’s designs to their own liking but are supposed to ensure that each character remains recognisable from one product to another.

The latest approved art includes men and women of different ethnicities using disability aids as well spotlighting individual products.

In addition, men and women are pictured moving a finger between their ear and their mouth, which is used as a deaf sign in American Sign Language.

The emojis build on the 13 drawings submitted by Apple in March 2018 after it had consulted the American Council of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf, among other organisations.

It had noted that one in seven people around the world had some form of disability.

Period emoji

Another notable addition to the emoji library is a drop of blood, which is meant to offer women a new way to talk about menstruation.

Its addition follows a campaign by Plan International UK, a girls’ rights charity that held an online vote in 2017 for what a period-themed emoji should look like.

The most popular choice was a pair of pants marked by blood but when that was rejected by the Unicode Consortium, the charity pushed for a blood drop instead.

“For years we’ve obsessively silenced and euphemised periods,” said Lucy Russell, head of girls’ rights at the group.

“An emoji isn’t going to solve this but it can help change the conversation. Ending the shame around periods begins with talking about it”.

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