Big, Big Surprise on Qantas Boeing 767 from Melbourne to Sydney

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.

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9 Comments

#1 I hope other airlines follow this great example!

Hi! Congratulations to QANTAS for deciding to run their entertainment system through iPads so that it's fully accessible! I expect others will join me in hoping that other airlines follow such an excellent example, especially for long-haul flights!

#2 That gives me a little hope.

Hi David. I admit, when I saw your blog title I thought a spammer had gotten on the site, again. :) That's awesome you could use the iPad like that. I have a six hour flight to Las Vegas coming up. If I decide to spend the eight dollars U.s. to have connectivity, I'll report back. Part of me doesn't want to spend that much, I can survive without things utnil we land, but part of me would love sending a tweet at 35000 feet. :)

#3 I gather the iPad was provided by the airline

If I understood the blog entry above correctly, it seems the iPad was provided by the airline, rather than passengers having connectivity for their own iPads. I imagine David wouldn't have had to launch VoiceOver, as he stated above that he did, if he'd been using his own iPad. Sure, connectivity of our own devices would be nice, but accessibility of a device already on the plane is even better, in the sense that people who need that accessibility can get the same entertainment as people who don't.

#4 Gr8

Hello, thats great indeed. Few days ago, one of my friends was talking to me about a hotel in Qatar which he stayed in they also have full control of room from AC to entertainment. he also was amazed when discovered the app is accessible 90% hopefully all company's apps become full accessible soon. thanks for the article.

#5 You are right, Claire.

I guess the coffee hadn't gone through my brain yet. Well if i spend the money it will be good to write up something on how accessible it is. Of course i don't have the fancy blog tags that david does, ah well i guess i'l do without. :)

#6 Hi, that's pretty cool, its

Hi, that's pretty cool, its especially great to think that VoiceOver was set up on triple click home on an already configured iPad, shows someone obviously is aware of accessibility. I hope you remembered to turn VoiceOver off when you landed as otherwise I am thinking the next person who uses that ipad is going to be quite confused and the airline staff baffled how to turn VoiceOver off lol.

#7 That's Totally Awesome!

I, too, thought at first that another spammer had managed to outsmart this site. But that is awesome! If I can figure out a way to do so, I am going to post this on the Twitter timeline for my volunteer job. With your permission though of course. I volunteer for a nonprofit disability-related organization here in the United States. I only flew solo once, and that was several years ago. Long before I started using a Mac, and long before Voiceover even came out. I won't go into detail about my experience because it's off topic, but suffice it to say it was very pleasant. I, too, hope the other airlines follow suit if they haven't already done so.

#8 Just reading what is being

Just reading what is being said here. It's wonderful and I believe this was featured on the top tech tidbits news letter I'm subscribed to that is out every thursday. Let's hope that more airlines become involved in this effort.

#9 Happy about this

I'm so happy that at least one airline has begun to do this. I know not all airlines use iPads for entertainment, but for those who do, it is an excellent idea in making their system as accessible with voice over as possible and allowing voice-over to be turned on by a blind person travelling alone.