United Will Be the First Airline to Offer Braille Inside Its Cabins

The airline is rolling out a different kind of bumpy ride for its visually-impaired passengers.

United is making it easier for the blind and visually-impaired to get around on its aircraft.
United is making it easier for the blind and visually-impaired to get around on its aircraft. / United

Air travel is always a struggle, with cramped seating, congested security checkpoints, and delays. But United is hoping a major milestone in the industry will make things a little easier for visually-impaired travelers. The airline is introducing Braille to select cabin surfaces.

In a press release, the company said it’s rolling out the tactile signage to help passengers identify seat rows and numbers, as well as lavatories. The move would potentially benefit the more than 6 million Americans who have some level of vision loss and the 1 million who are blind.

United has said it’s the first airline to incorporate Braille on board its aircraft. Currently, those with difficulty seeing have to try to keep count when walking past seat rows or ask for assistance from the flight crew.

“Finding your seat on a plane or getting to the restroom is something most of us take for granted, but for millions of our customers, it can be a challenge to do independently,” Linda Jojo, executive vice president, chief customer officer for United, said in the statement. “By adding more tactile signage throughout our interiors, we're making the flying experience more inclusive and accessible, and that's good for everyone.”

Braille signage is pictured
Braille signage underneath an overhead compartment. / United

United is also looking to incorporate raised lettering and numbering on cabin surfaces, along with other modifications. The work is being planned with the cooperation of advocacy groups like the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind.

Braille is a system of raised dots that was invented by French educator Louis Braille in 1824. As a child, Braille suffered an accident that led to a loss of vision in both eyes. While a student at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, Braille adopted a French military system of communication that utilized dots arranged in grids. His streamlined version was widely accepted.

Contrary to the notion using Braille can be slow, many can do it more quickly than a visually-capable person can read: up to 400 words per minute, compared to a sighted person’s average of 300 words per minute.

Currently, about a dozen of the airline’s 900 planes are equipped with Braille. United expects the entire fleet (minus regional jets) to be modified by the end of 2026.