John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, and LaGuardia airports will now offer free Aira services for duration of year-long pilot program
The Port Authority has launched a 12-month pilot program at John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, and LaGuardia airports that combines mobile technology, artificial intelligence, and real-time human interaction to provide assistance in navigating the airport for people who are visually impaired.
The free service will be available to travelers via a smartphone app paid for by the Port Authority and provided by Aira, a company that uses video-chatting technology, available on most smartphones, with additional support from a customer representative to provide wayfinding assistance to visually impaired travelers.
“This customer service initiative is designed to provide assistance to our special needs population,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “We are always looking to find new ways to increase accessibility at the airports for all our customers.”
“The Port Authority is strongly committed to a policy of inclusion across all our facilities,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “Our airports are access points to the world and this innovative use of technology will help ensure they remain accessible to all of our customers.”
”Navigating an airport with limited or no vision is an enormous challenge on the best of days,” said Port Authority Director of Aviation Huntley A. Lawrence. “Now, with Aira, we can provide real-time help anywhere at our major airports for people with limited vision capabilities.”
Aira will be accessible from various public access locations around the airport such as the frontage curbside, AirTrain, and within the terminals, excluding TSA and CBP checkpoint areas.
Using a smartphone, customers can download the application, sign up, and promptly connect to a remote professional agent who can see the user’s surroundings through their device’s camera. This enables agents to provide real-time audio descriptions as well as GPS location, maps, rideshare, and photo-sharing capabilities. The ability to connect with a highly trained person who view surroundings through the phone’s camera provides easier mobility for those needing guidance around the airports.
“Aira’s mission is to make information instantly accessible, anytime, anywhere for all people,” said Troy Otillio, Aira’s CEO. “We are thrilled with this partnership and thank the Port Authority for their strong commitment to inclusion and for embracing an innovative approach to enhancing the airport experience for all passengers.”
The Port Authority and Aira will use targeted marketing to educate the public about Aira Access, as well as engaging the community with local blind support and low-vision advocate groups.