United recently became the first U.S. airline to add Braille to aircraft cabin interiors. The inclusive design update will help millions of travelers with visual disabilities more easily navigate the cabin independently. According to the Department of Transportation, about 27 million people with disabilities traveled by air in 2019.
Thus far, United has equipped about a dozen aircrafts with Braille markings for individual rows and seat numbers, as well as inside and outside the lavatories. The airline intends 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,” Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President, Chief Customer Officer for United, offered in a press statement. “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.”
Inclusion Beyond Aircraft Cabin Interiors
For the eighth-straight year, United was recognized as a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion and earned a top score on the Disability Equality Index benchmarking tool, a joint initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN, to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities.
“United is taking additional steps to create an accessible airline passenger experience through Braille signage,” said ACB Interim Executive Director Dan Spoone. “We appreciate the airline’s continued exploration of additional in-flight navigational aids like large print and tactile indicators, and we encourage all airlines to follow United’s lead in making air travel more inclusive for the blind and low vision community.”
Furthermore, the United mobile app was recently redesigned to make it easier to use for people with visual disabilities with increased color 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 isn’t the only airline taking inclusion to new heights. As previously published by AmeriDisability, American Airlines operates “It’s Cool to Fly American,” an initiative centered on preparing children and their families for air travel through mock travel drills. And Delta Flight Products (DFP), a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, recently unveiled a first-of-its-kind prototype of a plane seat inclusively designed to allow passengers who use power wheelchairs to remain in their own wheelchairs throughout the entire flying experience.