Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Falafels and fairness: new emojis for 2019 aim to be more inclusive

The list of 230 new ideograms include people with various disabilities and cultural items from the Middle East, India and South America

Etisalat has created a new 'together' emoji. Getty Images
Etisalat has created a new 'together' emoji. Getty Images

Emojis present a fascinating study of our reliance on, awareness of and responsibility towards the digital world. The conventional grinning yellow face has acquired a vast range of emotions, myriad skin tones and even some handy gestures.


Popular protagonists from the animal and insect world have made their way to our screens, as have items commonly found in closets, refrigerators and on the sports fields. Plus flags, directional arrows, alien faces and space invaders: πŸ‘ΎπŸ‘½

You name it.

Now, the 230 new emojis set to take over our digital platforms from March are by far the most diverse and sensitive of the lot. The majority represent people with disabilities and their needs, from ear aids and prosthetic limbs to guide and service dogs. Human figurines in both manual and motorised wheelchairs, and carrying probing canes, are part of the list, while three new faces have also been added to represent those with hearing disabilities.

The announcement of these follow Apple's proposal to the Unicode Consortium last year; the tech giant proposed a suite of "accessibility emojis", which the non-profit organisation realised in collaboration with Emojipedia, a website that documents the meaning and common usage of these ideograms.

New emojis for 2019 represent people with disabilities. Courtesy Emojipedia
New emojis for 2019 represent people with disabilities. Courtesy Emojipedia

The message in an emoji

It's apparent that the Emojipedia team cares greatly about the message the emojis send. In addition to giving us topical characters and themes, the website also lists rather verbose descriptions of each.

The new Yawning Face emoji, for example, is meant to represent a yawn captured midway, which "may represent having insufficient sleep, or to imply boredom with a person or topic". Yawning Face is not, the content creators warn, "to be confused with Sleepy FaceπŸ˜ͺ or 😴 Sleeping Face, which often convey actually being asleep, or 😫 Tired Face, which is tired as in 'fed up'."

The new lot also include a much-requested white heart emoji, a diving mask, safety jacket, kite and parachute. New animal faces for 2019 include orangutans, sloths, otters, skunks and flamingos.

The new animals for 2019. Courtesy Emojipedia
The new animals for 2019. Courtesy Emojipedia

A series of graphic depictions of items common to certain cultures are also being added. This includes: maté, a caffeine drink popular in South American countries; a Hindu temple, sari, diya lamp and auto rickshaw from India; and a falafel, the fried chickpea snack much loved in the Middle East and, apparently, New York City.

The falafel emoji. Courtesy Emojipedia
The falafel emoji. Courtesy Emojipedia

Sure, that falafel looks more like a potato, but when it comes to emojis, it's the thought that counts. Right?

Updated: February 7, 2019 02:50 PM