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Virgin Atlantic enlists help from Guide Dogs to become first airline to offer accessible entertainment for customers with sight loss

30 Nov 2017

Virgin Atlantic has announced a global airline first as it launches a fully accessible inflight entertainment system for customers with sight loss, with help from the charity Guide Dogs. The technology will be offered throughout Virgin Atlantic’s fleet serving destinations across North America, the Caribbean, Africa, China, India and the Middle East.

Televisions in the sky have come a long way since the days of a single TV at the front of the cabin – with seat back touch screen entertainment now commonplace across the industry. However, while this is a benefit for many, touch screens can create a barrier for passengers who are blind or partially sighted due to the challenges of navigating the system.

Virgin IFEEdit _10Now, Virgin Atlantic is pioneering new technology, which will enable customers with vision impairments to enjoy the full range of onboard entertainment via specially adapted iPads. Working with UK tech company Bluebox Aviation Systems, the innovative iPad-based platform was tested by representatives from the charity Guide Dogs and includes audio descriptions, large type, and consistent layout and controls.

Virgin Atlantic and Bluebox worked closely with guide dog owners to assist with the development of the special kit and considered different types of sight loss it could benefit, including total blindness, partial vision and sensitivity to brightness. Representatives from the charity provided recommendations for the initial design and undertook a year of extensive system testing to ensure the technology met their needs.

John Welsman, Policy Business Partner for Travel and Transport for Guide Dogs, said: “We know that something as simple as an in-flight entertainment system with voice overs and audio descriptions will help passengers with vision impairments to enjoy flights just like anyone else on board. 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. Not having to call for cabin crew, or disturb fellow passengers around me who might be sleeping, will be great.

“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 in-flight entertainment.”

David Brown, Business Development Director at Bluebox, said: "Bluebox's accessible inflight entertainment platform – aIFE – offers Virgin Atlantic the means to give passengers with different types of sight loss access the latest IFE content, and the independence and navigational ease-of-use they told us they wanted and needed from an IFE system. For such a complex development, we're incredibly grateful to have had such willing and committed partners in both Virgin Atlantic and our testing group from Guide Dogs."

Mark Anderson, Executive Vice President – Customer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “Nearly thirty years ago, Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to offer seat back entertainment in all cabins, so it’s apt that we should be the first to ensure our entertainment is fully accessible across all flights. Working with Bluebox and Guide Dogs we’ve been able to create a world first that ensures customers with sight loss can experience the full range of onboard entertainment including the latest blockbusters, TV shows and albums.”

 



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