HOUSTON — Navigating airports can be difficult for blind and low vision (BLV) travelers, but starting Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, Houston’s airports became even more accessible for members of that community when it partnered with Aira, a subscription-based service providing wearable technology for the BLV community.
Now, at both George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport, subscribers to the Aira service will be able to use the technology free of charge. The two Houston airports are the first in Texas to partner with Aira on its airport network and just the third and fourth in the country to do so. Under the agreement, the Houston Airport System has agreed to cover the cost of minutes used by Aira subscribers within the airport terminals through the end of 2018.
“The Houston Airport System is constantly assessing how it can better enhance the airport experience. We work with our federal partners including the FAA – constantly reviewing and adapting the airport to exceed ADA standards,” said HAS Chief Operating Officer Jesus Saenz. “This partnership with Aira is one way of enhancing accessibility to a segment of the population that experiences blindness and low vision, and is another example of our efforts to go beyond the standard and truly make travel a great experience for everyone who comes through our airports.”
The Aira app and smart glasses connect travelers to a specially trained agent at a remote location, who sees a real-time livestream from the camera on the glasses or smart phone. The agent narrates what is in the user’s field of vision, assisting them with such tasks as navigating the terminal, locating and identifying luggage, reading flight boards, dining and shopping, and arranging ground transportation.
“Aira is a unique technology that gives users the information they need when they need it, and we are delighted to be able to offer this convenience to our passengers,” said Tim Joniec, the Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator for Houston Airports.
The National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind have been staunch supporters throughout the development of Aira. Christine Ha, Houstonian, Aira user and a New York Times Bestselling Author who was the winner of MasterChef, Season 3, uses the technology to travel frequently through the Houston airports, and recently visited the airports to demonstrate how the technology works, along with Aira and airport executives.
“Aira’s mission is to make information instantly accessible, anytime, anywhere,” said Suman Kanuganti, CEO of Aira. “With more than 50 million passengers coming through Houston airports each year, this partnership will allow Aira’s technology to reach a huge number of people, enhancing the airport experience for travelers who are blind and low vision. We hope every airport in the nation will follow Houston’s lead and join the Aira Airport Network.”
To see an example of how the glasses work, go to this link.
About the Houston Airport System
Houston Airports served more than 54.1 million passengers in 2017. Houston's three airports — George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby (HOU) and Ellington Airport (EFD) — contribute more than $27.5 billion to the regional economy. IAH and HOU collectively provide nonstop flights to nearly 200 destinations worldwide. For more information, visit fly2houston.com. Get social with Houston Airports by following us on Twitter @IAH and @HobbyAirport.
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. For more information, please visit aira.io.