Virgin Atlantic launches accessible IFE for sight impaired


Bluebox Aviation Systems has launched an accessible IFE (aIFE) platform, which will begin operations with Virgin Atlantic on December 1, 2017, entertaining passengers with visual impairments. This launch is claimed to make Virgin Atlantic the first global airline to make IFE accessible for passengers with sight loss across its entire fleet.

Bluebox worked with Virgin Atlantic and representatives from The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in the development of the iPad-based platform to ensure that both the airline’s and users’ needs were met. Through Virgin Atlantic’s relationship with the charity, Bluebox was introduced to a group of individuals with a range of visual impairments, from partial sight loss to total blindness. This group worked closely with both Virgin Atlantic and Bluebox providing input and feedback through multiple stages of the development process.

The platform is a fully-customized iPad-based user interface that builds upon the accessibility features of Apple’s iOS platform, such as VoiceOver and Zoom, but enhances these for the requirements of IFE, including controls and menus that are easy to detect and navigate for different types of sight loss; and support for multiple languages, closed captions, and audio-described content.

Mark Anderson, EVP, customer at Virgin Atlantic, commented, “Nearly 30 years ago, Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to offer seatback 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.”

“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,” added James Macrae, CTO, Bluebox Aviation Systems and contributor to the IFE Accessibility Working Group (ACCESSWG) of APEX. “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.”

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Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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