United Airlines said Thursday that it will add Braille to its aircraft cabins, offering a new level of accessibility for passengers who are blind or have significant vision impairment.
The airline will add placards with raised lettering and Braille to aisles labeling rows and seats, and to the inside and outside of lavatories, it said in an announcement.
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United said it will add the Braille signage throughout its mainline aircraft, making it the first U.S. airline with fleetwide Braille signage. The airline plans on adding the markings to individual aircraft as they undergo “United Next” cabin retrofitting. For planes that have already undergone United Next installation, the Braille signs will be added during normal maintenance downtime, said Mark Muren, a managing director at United who oversaw the project.
About a dozen planes already had the Braille signs added, the airline said, with the full mainline fleet expected to have the signs by 2026.
Regional jets operated by smaller airlines on United’s behalf under the United Express brand would not necessarily see the changes, Muren said, although the airline is “absolutely working for that.”
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“We want to have the most consistent experience,” Muren said. “That’s something we’re working very closely with our partners on, and that they’re very supportive of.”
While some individual aircraft or fleet types in the U.S. currently have Braille in some spots, such as in the lavatories, Muren said that no U.S. carrier currently has that universally throughout its fleet.
In recent years, accessibility in the air has become a bigger conversation, whether the topic is the safe handling of passengers’ wheelchairs, lavatory sizes or the real-world practicality of evacuation safety standards.
While challenges remain due to the inherent nature of aircraft and air travel, there’s room to do more, Muren said.
“This is placards. This is a small thing, and we acknowledge this isn’t a world-changing event,” he said. “But it is a part of our journey here.”
“We believe that the more accessible United can be to all customers, the better it is for everybody,” Muren added.