United Airlines today launches a redesigned version of its mobile app, with new enhancements intended to make travel easier for people with visual disabilities. Throughout its award-winning app, the carrier has increased color contrast, added more space between graphics and reordered how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with the screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack that are built into most handheld devices and read aloud on-screen messages and notifications.
By restructuring the way the information is organized on the app, screen readers are better able to convert text to audio in the proper, logical sequence, allowing customers to better understand and navigate the app. According to the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, more than 25 million Americans have self-reported travel-limiting disability. The improved accessibility of the app is just one of the ways United is continuing its commitment to accessibility and inclusion of customers with disabilities.
“The parts of the travel experience that we all take for granted like checking luggage, getting your flight status and accessing a boarding pass can still be a challenge for someone with a visual disability,” said Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President for Technology and Chief Digital Officer, United. “These new accessibility enhancements are part of our continuing commitment to level the playing field, unlock all the customer benefits of our app and give people with disabilities more independence while traveling.”
Visually impaired customers will notice that these changes make it easier to manage all aspects of day-of travel, including check in, viewing reservation details and flight status, bag tracking and more. Ray Campbell, a member of United’s digital team who’s visually impaired and sits on the board of the American Council of the Blind, played a key role in helping redesign the app, and walks through how these changes make flying easier for him in this video.
“Optimizing mobile apps for tools such as VoiceOver and TalkBack has been a game changer, allowing people with visual disabilities to fully utilize smartphone technology in their daily lives,” said Campbell. “It’s just as important for someone with a visual disability to easily access day-of-travel information and features as for any other customer. By improving the accessibility of the United app, we are truly living out United’s mission of caring for all customers.”
Beyond the accessibility changes, the United digital team enhanced the current offering while keeping the features that helped the app win a Webby People’s Voice award in 2019.
- For our MileagePlus® program members, the app now features a refreshed account experience for members to easily check balances, track Premier® progress, explore MileagePlus benefits, access past activity and more, all in one place.
- The airline is also expanding a popular feature previously only accessible to MileagePlus members. Now, all 37 million customers who have the United app will see a contextualized home screen starting 48 hours before their flight which provides dynamic updates based on where a customer is in their travel journey. For example, customers can see the boarding status of their flight on their homescreen, access personal device entertainment onboard with one click, find a link to a map with gate-to-gate directions for connecting flights and click a quick access button to track any checked bags upon arrival.
- United made slight tweaks to navigation based on customer feedback to make the app more intuitive, including making the bottom navigation persistent throughout the app. Another example is the “More” menu, which was reorganized and now contains the “Inbox” feature, which includes timely messages about boarding announcements, gate changes and other travel updates.
- Customers will notice a new color palette that’s consistent with the refreshed branding the airline debuted in 2019. United’s digital team also made subtle design adjustments to make things more consistent and easier to find, like always using a purple bar to highlight the main call-to-action on a page and ensuring alerts and flight status icons appear the same way in every page on the app.
- All of these changes are underpinned by a new back-end platform, which will ultimately make the app faster and more responsive.