Virgin Atlantic will become the first commercial airline to offer an in-flight entertainment option for visually impaired passengers on every flight.
Virgin Atlantic’s partnership with Bluebox Aviation Systems will soon mean that every aircraft in the carrier’s fleet will be equipped to offer descriptive audio devices which will allow visually impaired passengers to take full advantage of the in-flight entertainment (IFE) options onboard. It is believed that the December 1 launch will make the West Sussex-based airline the first in the world to offer the service for passengers on every scheduled flight through the route system.
“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,” Virgin Atlantic Vice President Mark Anderson said in a statement announcing the upcoming launch. “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.”
Rather than attempting to incorporate the tools into the existing seat back IFE monitors, engineers developed a handheld device that syncs with the onboard entertainment systems. Sight impaired passengers are able to follow a series of audio cues which allows them to navigate menu options and listen to descriptions of available film, television and music options.
“We distilled the most critical elements of our Bluebox Ai IFE platform into a simple design that someone with sight loss can easily and consistently navigate, enriching this with additional background functionality,” Bluebox Aviation Systems Chief Technology Officer James Macrae explained. “For example, rather than using a traditional screen reader function to read out on-screen text, information like film synopses are read out after a single tap of the film title. By putting these in the background, we kept the interface uncluttered and simple to navigate, but still providing information to help the passenger choose their selection.”
While the device seems to be primarily designed to help sight impaired flyers to independently navigate IFE menu options, the new system will also help to lead passengers to entertainment selections such as a special version of Walt Disney’s Frozen that includes an audio description of the animated film synced along with the audio track.