Virgin Atlantic has become the first airline to offer entertainment catered to visually impaired passengers.

In 1991, the airline became the first to reveal individual screens on the back of each customer’s seat and it continues to offer a wide range of films, TV programmes and games as part of its inflight entertainment.

Despite the success of the seat back screens, the touch screen surface and challenging navigational system can generate barriers for passengers who have limited visibility. But with the launch of its new initiative, Virgin Atlantic will be able to provide a specialised service for customers who require it.

Using pioneering technology developed by Bluebox, the new kit features specially adapted iPads which have audio descriptions for all entertainment features.

The new system has also received a seal of approval from Guide Dogs for the Blind. The organisation assisted in its development and offered recommendations for its design as part of a year-long testing process to ensure the kit met the needs of those using it.

Virgin Atlantic’s new technology will mean that more people can make use of their inflight features (PA)

“We know that something as simple as an inflight entertainment system with voiceovers and audio descriptions will help passengers with sight loss to enjoy flights just like anyone else on board,” said John Welsman, Policy Business Partner for Travel and Transport for the charity Guide Dogs.

“As someone with sight loss who flies quite often myself, I think it’ll be wonderful to access entertainment and information on Virgin planes without needing to ask for help.”

“The charity Guide Dogs works hard to make sure that people who are blind or partially sighted are not left out of life, and so we’re delighted that Virgin Atlantic is helping passengers with sight loss to be more independent on board their planes by providing accessible inflight entertainment.”

With over two million people living with sight loss in the UK, the airline’s new feature will benefit a number of passengers including those with partial vision and sensitivity to brightness.

The airline already offers familiarisation days for passengers with sight loss and their guide dogs (PA)

Bluebox’s Business Development Director, David Brown has said that their collaboration “offers Virgin Atlantic the means to give visually impaired passengers access to the latest IFE content, and the independence and navigational ease-of-use they told us they wanted and needed”.

The airline already offers a number of services that aim to make travelling with it as easy and enjoyable as possible for those with visual impairment – familiarisation days allow visitors and their guide dogs to adjust to the on-board systems before their trip.

Available on all planes visiting destinations across North America, the Caribbean, Africa, China, India and the Middle East, the new tech is hoped to allow passengers to benefit from the full experience of flying with Virgin Atlantic.

Mark Anderson, Executive Vice President – Customer at Virgin Atlantic said: “Working with Bluebox and Guide Dogs for the Blind we’ve been able to create a world first that ensures customers with sight loss can experience the full range of on-board entertainment including the latest blockbusters, TV shows and albums.”

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