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By 2026, all United Airlines mainline planes – over 900 aircraft in total, though not including regional jets – will feature Braille signage, making air travel more accessible for blind and visually impaired passengers. The airline will become the first U.S. air carrier to add Braille to rows, seats, and lavatories.
The goal of the update is to help blind passengers retain their independence while flying, so that they don’t have to ask for assistance or count rows to find their seats.
United plans to include these features on all new aircraft, in addition to updating the interiors of its existing planes. Besides adding Braille signage, the airline also plans to improve the accessibility features on its mobile app and in-flight entertainment system. The proposed retrofit to existing planes will include other customer-friendly modifications such as increasing the size of overhead bins.
It may surprise you to learn that Braille signage isn’t already a standard feature on modern aircraft. Yet signage difficulties are just one of the many accessibility challenges that remain for air passengers with disabilities – though some solutions are in the works. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation will soon implement regulations to ensure that all single-aisle planes have accessible restrooms. And Delta Airlines recently unveiled plans to introduce convertible seats that allow wheelchair users to stay in their own wheelchairs during flights.
Making the friendly skies a bit friendlier:
- The idiosyncrasies of certain aircraft present further challenges for even the most seasoned travelers with disabilities. For example, some planes lack a Row 13 due to superstitions.
- Vision loss affects around 7 million Americans, including 1 million who are blind.
- Not all Americans with vision loss can read Braille, however, so United plans to add additional modifications to its planes, including raised lettering.