A friendly face for low vision airport travellers

Jack holding a phone up in a busy airport to scan the airport with Aira app.
Pictured: Jack Tyrrell from Centre for Inclusive Design trialling the AIRA app at Sydney Airport.

Having a disability and travelling interstate or overseas can be very overwhelming. Airports are busy places bustling with people getting to their next destination or returning home.

Whilst a lot of work is done to help passengers move through airports to access food and retail shops, toilets, lounges and ultimately the right gate for their flight, spare a thought for people experiencing blindness or low vision.

In an Australian first, Sydney Airport  is helping blind and low vision travellers to navigate the airport. CEO, Geoff Culbert says, “It’s all about making the airport experience easier and more accessible for our passengers”.

How does it work?

Users subscribe to Aira, an app that connects your mobile device and its camera to a trained agent, who helps navigate the terminal. Users can pay for the minutes they use, but Sydney Airport will pick up the cost for travellers at the venue.

Testing the service

Jack Tyrrell from the Centre for Inclusive Design helped Sydney Airport test the Aira service. Jack, who is legally blind, found that he was able to successfully navigate the airport with the help of the Aira app. A frequent traveller, Jack completed a series of scenarios replicating departure and arrival activities. He was able to find his way using the app including bypassing obstacles and finding other services such as toilets and retail outlets. He even managed to find the bar, which he previously didn’t know existed!

Jack says, “Using the app has radically changed my experience at the airport, now I can find shops and services that I never knew existed.”

Aira is available and free to use on Android and iOS devices at Sydney Airport.