New vision-impaired user interface launched by Virgin Australia

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Thursday, 20 April 2017 09:16am

Virgin Australia has become the first airline in the Asia Pacific region, and the second airline in the world, to introduce an in-flight entertainment (IFE) user interface for passengers who are blind or have low vision.

Image of ‘Welcome Aboard’ main menu

‘Welcome Aboard’ main menu

The new interface increases accessibility to IFE content through simplified screen layouts, larger icons and voice prompts. It will be available soon on Virgin Australia’s entire fleet of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft which feature a seatback entertainment system, and is being rolled-out on the Airbus A330 fleet in May and June 2017.

The airline’s wireless IFE system is available on its Boeing 737-800 and Embraer E190 fleets, and is accessible to vision impaired passengers via screen reader software available on their own devices.

Virgin Australia General Manager, In Flight Experience, Tash Tobias, said in the launch announcement on 19 April 2017 that “we are determined to ensure travel with Virgin Australia is enjoyable for all of our guests and we are delighted to introduce this new user interface for guests who are blind or have low vision.”

“This new technology also allows vision impaired guests to access important flight information such as the time and distance to their destination,” she said.

Throughout the development process, the airline consulted with passionate disability advocate, Phillip Chalker. “We’ve created a system that enables more passengers to enjoy movies, music, audiobooks and TV shows and we thank him for his invaluable assistance,” said Ms Tobias.

Digital access advocates, Media Access Australia (MAA), supports this new initiative as a step in the right direction for the airline industry and hopes that other carriers will follow Virgin Australia’s lead. MAA also acknowledges the tireless efforts of Phillip Chalker in advocating with petitions and liaising directly with the airline, as without his enthusiasm and dedication, this outcome may not have been possible.

This latest move from Virgin Australia signals “an ever-increasing focus on accessible entertainment for all guests” says the airline, after 2016’s introduction of options for hearing-impaired people. This included subtitling and closed-captioning of movies and TV, a growing range of non-narrative documentaries and a handpicked collection of reading materials.

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