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Apple is finally addressing disability diversity in its new emoji release

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Megan Murray
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Apple releases disability diverse emojis

The emoji keyboard is finally getting an inclusive, disability diverse update and it’s about time, too. 

When we learn of good news, such as Apple’s announcement that they will be releasing a series of disability emojis this autumn, it can be bittersweet. 

The upcoming drop will feature never-before-seen emojis, each of which has been designed to address a range of disabilities. These emojis include a guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, a number of wheelchairs, a prosthetic arm and a prosthetic leg.

It’s an incredible move from Apple. And there’s no denying that the company’s decision to further improve the representation and diversity of its emoji keypad – which acts as a means of communication for millions of people across the world – is a progressive and encouraging step for diversity.

But then again, we can’t quite believe that it’s 2019 and that, up until now, disability emojis did not exist.

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One in five people in the UK have a disability and so far, this huge percentage of our population still feels hugely underrepresented. Earlier this year, stylist.co.uk spoke to Shani Dhanda, an activist for disabled people and the brains behind the Diversability Card (the first discount card for people in the UK with disabilities), who said that although she has noticed more representation of disabled women in pop culture, in particular, the employment of disabled models in magazines, we need more.

Representation, she explains, will help open up avenues of dialogue around disability that are simply not happening currently in the UK. “We have a society of people who don’t know how to talk to disabled people,” she says.

Which is why it’s so important that things we use everyday as an integral part of our lives, like our phones, are fully inclusive – something Apple has said was the driving force behind the new release. 

Apple disabled emojis
Apple announces the launch of new emoji keyboard which includes a range of disabilities 

It’s a sentiment that Stylist has already pledged to make more present in our pages and on our website with our Love Women campaign, which addresses the need for diversity and representation for women in everything we do. 

Our initiative champions showing off our wrinkles, scars and differences, making sure we see more bodies that look like ours, that represent us. 

Further to this, our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:

  • We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
  • We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
  • We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
  • We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
  • Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.

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As well as the above mentioned emojis that aim to represent a range of disabilities, the new improved emoji keyboard will feature extensive versions of the holding hands couple in 75 options, so that you can select a mix of any skin tone and sexual orientation.

In total, 59 new emojis will be available for updating this autumn, although the exact date has not yet been released. The more we talk about the need for greater inclusivity and show that as an audience we want and support it, the more chance we have of global companies like Apple listening to us. 

Images: Getty

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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