On World Emoji Day, same-sex and interracial couples, wheelchairs and a controversial plate of falafel are just some of the emoji iPhone and Android users will expect to see later this year.
Silicon Valley is notoriously lacking in diversity. But tech giants are making major progress in at least one area of inclusivity: emoji.
On Wednesday, Apple and Google revealed the designs of new emoji including depictions of a service dog, a prosthetic arm and leg, wheelchairs, hearing aids, and a person signing that they are deaf. The companies also introduced new versions of people holding hands, with Apple adding 75 new combinations based on skin tone and gender.
The new emoji — released in honor of “World Emoji Day” — are expected to arrive on iPhone and Android phones later this year. They have already been approved by the nonprofit Unicode Consortium, which maintains character software standards.
The greater diversity in emoji is significant because of the way the characters have replaced words in much digital communication and cross language barriers. Representation by emoji validates identity, cultural experts say. Emoji are used by 92 percent of the global population online, Unicode says.