Qantas improves in-flight accessibility

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Wednesday, 2 April 2014 10:01am

Australia’s national airline has drastically improved the experience of flying for blind and vision impaired passengers by making the devices used on domestic flights to view in-flight entertainment accessible.

Qantas uses Apple iPads for its Q-Streaming system on 17 domestic routes. Until recently, the iPad’s extensive accessibility features were unable to be turned on. This meant that although iPads include screen readers and other assistive technologies, passengers with disabilities were unable to use them.

Following feedback from customers and potential customers, Qantas has now unlocked the iPad’s VoiceOver screen reader.

Passenger David Woodbridge, who is blind, was delighted to discover yesterday that not only did VoiceOver work on his flight from Melbourne to Sydney but that the in-flight entertainment menu was accessible. Woodbridge was able to watch videos, read flight information and listen to the radio completely independently.

In his blog post about the experience Woodbridge wrote,“Qantas needs to be congratulated, and as far as I am concerned, it would not have happened unless the actual device being used was able to be fully accessible, which of course the iPad is.”

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, also a screen reader user, echoed Woodbridge’s sentiment, “I am pleased that Qantas has made its Q streaming system available to everyone, not just people who don't need to use a screen reader. With a device such as the iPad, which is already very accessible, it is good to see that Qantas has taken advantage of that.”

Qantas has an ongoing commitment to accessibility and offers closed captions on its safety videos and many in-flight movies.

Legislation put in place in the US is also having an influence. Over the next two years, all airlines flying to the United States including Qantas, Jetstar and Air New Zealand must ensure their booking systems and check-in kiosks meet accessibility requirements set by the US government.

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