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2019 is the year of inclusion, even on our screens

By Jori Ayers

The Unicode Consortium, the universal character coding that regulates which emojis are added and how they appear, has just made a new announcement that has the world talking.

They have just approved and released the final list of 2019 emojis. These new emojis include a total of 230 new emojis that are coming to your major phone and computer platforms this year. We will now have emojis that emphasize inclusivity by representing the deaf and blind community via emojis.

This is the sixth major update since 2014. In 2015, skin tones were added to the Unicode Standard and  the representation of women was highlighted. 2017 featured the addition of gender inclusive emojis and in 2018 Unicode added hair color to existing emojis.

This year, Unicode is going all out on their list of new emojis. It includes emojis such as a dog for the blind, prosthetic limbs, sign language, different couple combinations holding hands and a person in a wheelchair.

I think this is a good way to start off 2019. This is the year of embracing everyone and we aren’t leaving anyone behind. Unicode’s decision to add these new emojis was a good decision  because it really puts things into a different perspective.

As an African American woman who is bald, I think it’s important to have something like this, even if it’s as small as an emoji representing who you are. In this day and age there are so many commercials that enforce an image of what people need to look like, instead of people embrace who they are, even if they don’t look the same as others.

Proposed by Apple in 2018, Apple  wanted to include a new set of emojis called the accessibility emojis. Apple wrote in their proposal for these emojis that they are requesting a new addition of emojis that represent individuals with disabilities. THis is to better represent individuals with disability.

Apple’s point here isn’t to just name off every disability that is known but a starting point of what’s more to come in the next years in regards to the way people look and how they present themselves.

Apple could be starting a new trend that says it is okay to be and look different than others, have a different relationship and have a disability.

Along with the other new emojis, people will soon get to have the “holding hand” emoji to reflect their own relationship by being able to pick out their skin tone as well as gender. Which is a progress in itself. Back in 2014, when emojis first had launched, there was no such thing as having emojis reflect your own relationships.

It might seem funny to others to be this excited over an emoji, but I think it’s a big deal. It is like hanging out with your group of friends and they all started talking and nobody talked to you or noticed you were there. It’s the same scenario just with emojis.

In a recent New York Times article about the new emojis, Ken Tanabe, the founder of Loving Day, an organization that encourages people to celebrate the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage, is on board with these new emojis.

“Having an emoji that’s already there, it feels like ‘hey, we are part of the conversation’,” said Tanabe. “We are part of the community. We are represented in the most personal part of our lives.”

This is something you don’t see every day but it’s time that we did. With the release of these new emojis, I think that this is a great way to segue into other topics dealing with inclusivity. You never know, something as small as these new additions to our keyboards could lead to something bigger and maybe even be an eye opener for other brands when it comes to topics like this.

you can reach Jori Ayers at tori.ayers@spartans.ut.edu

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