Greater Representation (and a Little Menstruation!) in New Emoji Set

A selection of the new emoji released by The Unicode Consortium for 2019. Apple proposed more emoji to better represent individuals with disabilities, which includes individuals with wheelchairs, canes, hearings aids, and prosthetic limbs. Another highlight includes a new "people holding hands" emoji will let users mix and match different skin tones and genders. (Unicode)

We've come a long way from the yellow smiley face.

The humble emoji, originally a set of basic symbols designed to add visual flair to text-based messages, has become a way for people to express their identity. And with the latest crop of tiny icons, smartphones around the world are about to become much more inclusive.

Disabled individuals will see a wide range of new emojis devoted to them, including wheelchairs, canes, hearings aids, and prosthetic limbs. These emojis were proposed by Apple to better represent individuals with disabilities.

"One in seven people around the world has some form of disability," Apple wrote in its proposal. "Adding emoji emblematic to users' life experiences helps foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability." Apple said it developed the proposed emojis in collaboration with the American Council of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf, among other organizations.

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A new "people holding hands" emoji will let users mix and match different skin tones and genders, with 171 possible combinations.

Another new emoji, a drop of blood, follows a campaign by Plan International for an emoji depicting menstruation. Their first submission—blood-stained panties—was rejected. Undeterred, the organization teamed up with the National Health Service and submitted a new proposal for a blood drop.

The groups wrote in their proposal: "Not only would a blood drop emoji be relevant for hundreds of millions of women and people who menstruate all around the world, it would also show that periods aren't taboo and they are something we should be able to talk about openly and honestly."

Garlic, a yo-yo, and a pinching hand round out the offerings—59 new emojis in all.

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The Unicode Consortium, which curates the emojis, announced the new offerings this week. They should be available on many smartphones in the second half of the year, Unicode said.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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