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 today, 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.
“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.”
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.
Watch today’s press conference on Facebook. More information can be found at the Aira website.
Aira is AI + AR for the blind. Aira combines the power of Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality with wearable technologies, plus the interaction of its network of trained remote human assistants, to provide the 300 million blind and low vision people around the globe immediate access to information and assistance. Aira’s technology not only greatly enhances independence and mobility for those with vision loss, but also forms the basis of its endeavor to create smart cities that are accessible for all. Learn more at aira.io.
About The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
Founded in 1918, with thirteen locations across the U.S., The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. creates and enhances opportunities for independence and self-sufficiency of people who are blind, DeafBlind, and blind with other disabilities. The Lighthouse currently employs over 470 individuals, more than 260 of whom are blind, in manufacturing aerospace parts for The Boeing Company, high-quality office products for the Federal Government, and provides services to customers including the U.S. Military. With decades of innovation, engineering, and a dedication to make manufacturing work accessible for employees who are blind, the Lighthouse not only excels in the quality of its parts and products, but also the breadth of jobs it offers to employees.
About Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Operated by the Port of Seattle, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA, KSEA) is ranked as the 9th busiest U.S. airport, serving nearly 46.9 million passengers and more than 425,800 metric tons of air cargo in 2017. With a regional economic impact of more than $22.5 billion in business revenue, Sea-Tac generates 151,400 jobs (87,300 direct jobs) representing over $3.6 billion in direct earnings and more than $442 million in state and local taxes. Twenty-eight airlines serve 90 non-stop domestic and 26 international destinations including Canada, Mexico and seasonal operations.