SEATTLE – The Port of Seattle is launching a new pilot program to help people who are blind and low vision access a new assistive technology to safely and independently use Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Partnering with Aira (pronounced EYE-rah), Sea-Tac will be the first airport on the west coast and among the first airports in the nation to join the Aira Airport Network, and use this wearable smart glasses technology.
During a press conference the Port announced a pilot program that will cover the cost for any travelers using the Aira service which connects people who are blind and low vision to certified, live agents via smart glasses and a mobile app to navigate every step of the airport, from the curb and check-in area all the way to the gate.
“Our airport seeks to meet the needs of all travelers,” said Courtney Gregoire, Port of Seattle Commission President. “We are prioritizing customer service, innovation investments, and community partnerships to make Sea-Tac Airport more inclusive and the most accessible airport in the United States.”
The technology uses smart glasses and a mobile app to seamlessly connect the user to a live, human agent that can see the environment around the user in real-time. Agents then serve as visual interpreters to accomplish a variety of tasks in the airport – from viewing a flight information board to finding the queue line at a security checkpoint to verifying their luggage at a baggage carousel.
"Travel is such an important part of many people's lives, whether they are blind, low vision, or sighted," said Suman Kanuganti, CEO of Aira. "We are so proud to partner with Sea-Tac Airport to provide equal access to visual information to all airport travelers and expand the Aira Airport Network to the West Coast."
Aira is a subscription service that includes a mobile app, a pair of smart glasses, AT&T data, and by-the-minute access to live, human agents for a monthly fee. By providing complimentary Aira service, Sea-Tac Airport will cover the cost of all minutes used by Aira Explorers while they visit the airport. Aira Explorers will now be able to use Aira as long as they wish, from the garage to the main terminal, and all of the concourses and satellites, without deducting any minutes from their regular plan.
Sea-Tac Airport is one of the busiest in the nation, servicing more than 45 million passengers per year. With more than 20 million individuals who are blind or low vision living in the United States, and more than 285 million worldwide, this program is poised to have a major impact on these flyers as they travel to or from the Pacific Northwest.
“As the largest employer of people who are blind on the west coast and the largest employer of people who are DeafBlind in the nation, we are enthusiastic to see organizations like the Port of Seattle experimenting with technology to make their environments more accessible,” said Melanie Wimmenauer Vice President of Communications and Service Business for The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
More Details On Airport Accessibility
The Port of Seattle continues to find ways to welcome accessible communities to the airport, including small steps like adding electric carts to make it easier for passengers to connect to Link Light Rail and bigger steps like an in-depth accessibility audit that was recently undertaken with the Open Doors Organization. The Port intends to go beyond compliance with requirements of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to make Sea-Tac Airport the most accessible airport in the U.S.