POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

New service for SLC airport passengers who are blind or visually impaired

Nov 19, 2019, 4:34 PM | Updated: 5:16 pm
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File photo: Salt Lake City International Airport (Photo credit: Peter Samore)
(Photo credit: Peter Samore)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake International Airport has a new service to help passengers who are blind or visually impaired passengers navigate the airport.

The name of the program is Aira. Users download a telephone application or use Horizon Smart Glasses, which connect the user to a live agent. The agent then guides the user through the airport.

Everett Bacon is an assistive technology specialist at the Utah Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He demonstrated the program for the media at the airport on Tuesday.

“Basically I have a live agent that sees through my phone,” he said.

“[The agent] gives me a visual interpretation of what’s around me,” Bacon said.

The user hears the agent through an earpiece or headphones. During the demonstration, the agent helped Bacon get to the security portion of the airport and then through the security line. Bacon said that without Aira, he would have needed extra help.

One drawback, he said, is that many people who are blind or visually impaired have had to pay for a subscription to use the service.

“Working with entities like the airport, where they pay for it,” Bacon said, “allows many more blind people that can’t afford the subscription service to have access to the technology.”

The service is free at Salt Lake International Airport. Bacon says the cost for one year of use at the airport was $8,000. Through the use of GPS, anytime someone with the app on their phone is near the airport, the Aira service is free.

Bacon says he is working with Salt Lake City officials to bring free Aira service to downtown Salt Lake City’s Washington Square. That area encompasses the space between State Street and 200 East and between 400 and 500 South, near the downtown library. The service is also currently free at Walgreens locations in Utah and across the country.

Bacon is also working to provided Aira for free at the University of Utah, Utah State University, Utah Valley University and Salt Lake Community College.

Contributing: Simone Seikaly

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