Earlier this week I flew back from Melbourne to Sydney after attending the Vision 2014 International Low Vision Conference hosted by Vision Australia, where I was an Accessibility Ambassador on Apple’s iHouse interactive stand.
After getting to our seats, the person I was travelling with commented that the in-flight entertainment system was an iPad, and suggested that I try it out for accessibility.
Once the aircraft was up, up and away, I took the iPad out of the seat pocket in front of me and pressed the Home button 3 times without too much expectation. However, much to my surprise, VoiceOver came on.
Okay, so VoiceOver was now talking on the iPad, but the sixty four thousand dollar question was whether the actual in-flight entertainment system running on the iPad would be accessible. Although it had been great to see that the option to enable VoiceOver was available, I didn’t want to build my hopes up too much. However, I was in for another surprise, as it turned out that it was accessible. I could not believe it. I kept saying to the person I was travelling with that I couldn’t believe it. After all this time, I had the same level of access that everybody else onboard the aircraft had. I think for the first 15 minutes of just playing with the interface, I had tears in my eyes.
The in-flight entertainment system is web (HTML) based, with a menu going down the left hand side of the screen which contained; Movies, TV shows, Music, Kids Corner, Radio, and Information. Selecting an item brings up further choices that you can choose from, and then watch/listen to the content on subsequent pages/screens. I had to play with all of the menu items, and I could use every one of them. As it was an HTML based system, besides the usual VoiceOver gestures for navigating the screen, I could also use specific VoiceOver rotor gestures to navigate very quickly to headings, buttons, and links.
The flight felt very short, as I just got lost in the experience of having full access for the first time to an actual entertainment system onboard an aircraft. Once I got off, I immediately tweeted and posted to Facebook my unbelievable experience.
Qantas needs to be congratulated. And, as far as I am concerned, it would not have happened unless the actual device being used was capable of being fully accessible. Which, of course, the iPad is.
Even writing this blog entry, I still can’t quite believe that it has happened. And, no, it's not a belated April Fools joke!
As far as I understand, you should expect the same if you fly on any Qantas 767 that uses iPads for the in-flight entertainment system.