By the end of 2026, passengers on United Airlines can expect to find Braille signage on individual rows and seat numbers, as well as inside and outside restrooms.
The carrier says it will be the first airline in the United States to make the changes. So far, it has already implemented them in about a dozen of its more than 900 planes. It will add Braille to the rest of its mainline fleet over the next three years.
“We’re making the flying experience more inclusive and accessible, and that’s good for everyone,” says Linda Jojo, United’s chief customer officer, in a statement.
United is working directly with the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind and other disability advocacy groups on the new accessible designs. Jojo says that the goal of the new Braille signage is to help passengers retain autonomy.
“What we want to do for all of our customers is allow them to navigate as much on their own as possible,” Jojo tells Hannah Sampson of the Washington Post. She acknowledges the challenges embedded in the standard boarding process, which sometimes requires blind passengers to count how many rows they’ve passed or to be aware of individual planes’ numbering quirks. Braille signage on the rows and seats would be a significant improvement.
United is also working on several other accessibility changes, including a recently redesigned mobile app and inflight entertainment system. The airline is planning to expand its fleet in the coming years, and all new planes will include the new accessibility features, reports ABC News’ Clara McMichael. It will also be updating the interiors of existing planes, and the Braille signage will be added during that process.
Jojo tells the Washington Post that she hopes other airlines will follow United’s lead and make similar accessibility changes.
Why isn’t Braille already common inside planes? Chris Danielsen, a spokesperson for the Federation of the Blind, tells Afar’s Bailey Berg that he isn’t sure.
“Airlines have until recently focused on checking the boxes of regulatory compliance rather than on collaborating with customers with disabilities to discuss what might make the flying experience better for everyone,” he says. And while airlines are becoming increasingly willing to work with advocacy groups, he adds, “there is much work yet to be done and some big problem areas that still remain.”
Several other accessibility updates are in the works across the airline industry. Earlier this summer, Delta unveiled a new prototype for a convertible seat, which allows passengers to remain in their wheelchairs on flights. And just last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that single-aisle planes will eventually be required to have accessible restrooms that can accommodate a traveler with a disability and an attendant.