United has become the first US airline to add Braille to aircraft interiors, helping travellers with visual disabilities more easily navigate the cabin independently.
The airline currently has equipped about a dozen aircraft with Braille markings for individual rows and seat numbers as well as inside and outside the lavatories. United expects to outfit its entire mainline fleet with Braille by the end of 2026.
“Finding your seat on a plane or getting to the restroom is something most of us take for granted, but for millions of our customers, it can be a challenge to do independently,” said Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President, Chief Customer Officer for United.
“By adding more tactile signage throughout our interiors, we’re making the flying experience more inclusive and accessible, and that’s good for everyone.”
In addition to adding Braille, United is working with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and other disability advocacy groups to explore the use of other tactile navigational aids throughout the cabin such as raised letters, numbers and arrows.
“We applaud United for taking an important step toward making its aircraft more accessible to blind passengers,” said NFB President Mark Riccobono.
“The flight experience is often frustrating for a number of reasons, one of which is the amount of information that is available exclusively through printed signs and other visual indicators. We hope to continue working with United to explore additional ways to make flying more accessible and less stressful for blind passengers.”
According to the Department of Transportation, about 27 million people with disabilities travelled by air in 2019.
The rollout of Braille to mainline aircraft over the next few years is the latest way United has worked to create accessible solutions for its passengers.
The United mobile app was recently redesigned to make it easier to use for people with visual disabilities with increased colour contrast, more space between graphics and reordering how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with the screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack.
United’s inflight seatback entertainment screens offer a wide range of accessible features such as closed captioning, text-to-speech controls, magnification, explore-by-touch capabilities, audio-described movies plus adjustable and high-contrast text and colour correction.