United Airlines has installed braille signage in approximately twelve of its aircraft to improve accessibility for visually-impaired travelers. They aim to equip their entire fleet with this feature by the end of 2026, making them the first U.S. airline to do so.
The airline based in Chicago has introduced its inaugural plane that features braille indicators, which label each row and seat number. Additionally, braille signs both inside and outside the restrooms aid visually impaired and blind travelers in navigating through the aircraft. Advocates of disability rights have praised this move.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), around 27 million people with disabilities took commercial flights in 2019, while about 8 percent of the U.S. population is believed to suffer from some form of visual impairment.
“Finding your seat on a plane or getting to the restroom is something most of us take for granted, but for millions of our customers, it can be a challenge to do independently,” said Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at United. “By adding more tactile signage throughout our interiors, we’re making the flying experience more inclusive and accessible, and that’s good for everyone.”
Braille signage has been installed in collaboration with two of the country’s leading blind charities and non-profits—the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB). The two organizations will continue to work with United to find further ways of improving accessibility for disabled passengers, such as adding more tactile navigational aids in the form of raised letters, numbers, and arrows.
“We applaud United for taking an important step toward making its aircraft more accessible to blind passengers,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the NFB. “The flight experience is often frustrating for a number of reasons, one of which is the amount of information that is available exclusively through printed signs and other visual indicators.”
“We hope to continue working with United to explore additional ways to make flying more accessible and less stressful for blind passengers,” Riccobono said.
Dan Spoone, Interim Executive Director at the ACB, added: “United is taking additional steps to create an accessible airline passenger experience through braille signage. We appreciate the airline’s continued exploration of additional in-flight navigational aids like large print and tactile indicators, and we encourage all airlines to follow United’s lead in making air travel more inclusive for the blind and low vision community.”
United has a track record of making improvements for disabled passengers. They have been recognized as the Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion and have achieved the highest score on the Disability Equality Index.
Other initiatives that United has launched include redesigning its mobile app to make it easier for visually impaired people and adding more accessible features to its in-flight entertainment screens. The carrier has also partnered with organizations, including the Special Olympics, to provide equal employment opportunities for disabled people.