Virgin vision aid a first for Asia-Pacific

April 20, 2017

People with vision problems will be able to more easily use the inflight entertainment system on Virgin Australia’s Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft thanks to new software heralded as a first for the Asia-Pacific.

The Australian carrier is only the second in the world to introduce a special user interface to help vision-impaired passengers access inflight entertainment.

The interface, designed by CoKinetic Systems,  features big icons that are easier to recognise and use and is already available on Virgin Boeing 777-300ER aircraft used on long-haul routes to Los Angeles. It will also be rolled out on its Airbus A330 aircraft used primarily on domestic trans-continental routes to the West Australian capital of Perth.

The airline consulted with an Australian disability advocate, Philip Chalker, to design the interface and a Virgin spokeswoman said cabin crew would help vision impaired people set it up.

“The way it’s been designed is the iconography is really large,’’ the spokeswoman said. “So it’s a lot clearer and the basic colours that have been used allow vision-impaired … people to see it a lot easier.”

The home screen on the interface gives people access to TV, movies, the flight map as well as music and audiobooks.

The feature is the latest move by Virgin to improve accessibility to its entertainment system.

This includes closed captions and subtitles for passengers with hearing disabilities  available not just on the airline’s IFE system but on the wireless system that allows people travelling on its single-aisle jets to access entertainment on their own devices.

Vision-impaired passengers can also use their own screen reader software with the wireless IFE system.

Vision Australia general manager for advocacy and engagement Karen Knight commended the airline for its move to improve IFE accessibility.

“Many people who are blind or have low vision enjoy travel and travel widely, and by Virgin Australia continuing to improve the accessibility of its IFE technology guests have the opportunity to enjoy the latest entertainment,” she said.