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Tucson International Airport adds service that helps visually impaired navigate facility

Tucson International Airport adds service that helps visually impaired navigate facility

Blind and low-vision passengers will get free help navigating Tucson International Airport with a system that connects them via mobile phone networks to a personal airport guide.

TIA is the first airport in Arizona to introduce the Aira service, which provides access to an agent through a video stream from a smartphone camera or special “smart glasses” anywhere there’s a cell signal.

Using GPS, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, blind and low-vision travelers are connected to live, sighted agents who can provide visual descriptions to help travelers check in — even using self-service kiosks. The service also helps travelers navigate through TSA security, locate gates, find airport shops and restaurants, identify luggage and stay updated on flight status.

Departing and arriving passengers now have free access to the subscription-based Aira service while at TIA, courtesy of the Tucson Airport Authority through a partnership between Aira and the America Association of Airport Executives. The airport also continues to offer personal assistance to visually impaired travelers on request.

Since the program was launched in November, the free service has been made available at more than 30 U.S. airports as well as international destinations, including London’s Heathrow Airport and Wellington International Airport in New Zealand.

Ryan Bishop, a blind Tucson resident and regular subscriber to the Aira service, said the service is invaluable in helping him navigate not only during airport travel but day-to-day life.

“It’s a really good tool to have, and the agents are very helpful,” said Bishop, who had an agent named Carla help him navigate through TIA during a demonstration using a pair of Aira smart glasses that afford the agent a real-time, 180-degree view.

Regular Aira service, which provides online guidance anywhere via mobile networks, costs $99 a month for a standard plan or $124 for a package that includes smart glasses and a smartphone.

For more information or to download the Aira mobile app, go to Aira’s website,, or call 1-800-835-1934.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook:


David joined the Star in 1997, after working as a consumer and business reporter in Phoenix for more than a decade. A graduate of Ohio University, he has covered most business beats focusing on technology, defense and utilities. He has won several awards.

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