Virgin Atlantic has become the first airline to provide a fully accessible inflight entertainment system for customers with sight loss. The new service will be offered throughout its fleet serving destinations across North America, the Caribbean, Africa, China, India and the Middle East.

The new technology will enable blind customers to enjoy the full range of onboard entertainment via specially adapted iPads. Working with UK tech company Bluebox Aviation Systems, the innovative iPad-based platform was tested by representatives from the charity Guide Dogs. Guide Dogs have assisted with the development of the special kit and considered a number of impairments which it could benefit, including blindness partial vision and sensitivity to brightness. Representatives from the charity provided recommendations for the initial design and undertook a year of extensive system testing to ensure the technology met their needs.

Mark Anderson, Virgin Atlantic’s Executive Vice President – Customer, said: “Nearly thirty years ago, Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to offer seat back 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 for the Blind 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.”

John Welsman, Guide Dogs’ Policy Business Partner for Travel and Transport, said: “We know that something as simple as an in-flight entertainment system with voice overs and audio descriptions will help passengers with sight loss to enjoy flights just like anyone else on board. As someone with sight loss who flies quite often myself, I think it’ll be wonderful to access entertainment and information on Virgin planes without needing to ask for help. Not having to call for cabin crew, or disturb fellow passengers around me who might be sleeping, will be great.

“The charity Guide Dogs works hard to make sure that people who are blind or partially sighted are not left out of life, and so we’re delighted that Virgin Atlantic is helping passengers with sight loss to be more independent on board their planes by providing accessible in-flight entertainment.”