News

Houston First making a difference for the vision impaired

Houston • June 13, 2019

Houston First Corporation has joined the network of businesses and public institutions offering free access to Aira, an app and optional wearable device to aid blind and low-vision people conduct tasks and navigate public spaces with enhanced ease and independence. In an effort to increase accessibility, Houston First has partnered with Aira, developers of the visual information technology, to cover the cost of any minutes used through the service within the George R. Brown Convention Center, Avenida Houston, Wortham Theater Center, and Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in downtown Houston’s Convention and Theater Districts. Houston First joins the Houston Airport System in providing free access to Aira in their facilities.

“Houston First venues are among the top in the nation, and we are continually looking for ways to offer the highest levels of service to our customers and patrons. Working with Aira to provide free access to their service for blind and low-vision guests will increase the number of users we can reach with this incredibly helpful technology and improve the guest experience,” said Luther Villagomez, HFC Chief Operating Officer- Convention Center and Houston First Theaters. “Part of our mission is to enhance quality of life for Houstonians and visitors alike. We are only successful if we can ensure those tenets to all and deliver on our promise to provide an enjoyable, safe, and accessible experience for everyone.”

Aira works by connecting blind and low-vision people with access to a highly-trained, professional agent who provides visual information through an app on their smartphones or smart glasses. The service acts as an enhancement to orientation & mobility skills to allow for more independence when conducting virtually any task, including navigating through unfamiliar spaces. Once a user subscribes to Aira and downloads the app, they can immediately access Aira agents to assist with real-time navigation and providing information about the surrounding environment. 

“Aira opens up a world of opportunities for blind and low-vision people in our venues. Along Avenida Houston, the outdoor event and entertainment space in front of the convention center, we host public events and live music performances, we have dining and retail options that Aira users can explore with confidence. By providing this service at no charge to our guests, Houston First has made using Aira more convenient in both the convention center and our Theater District venues,” said John Gonzalez, HFC Senior Vice President of Operations and General Manager of the GRB. “As the first convention center in Texas with free access to Aira, we are proud to offer this service which will so positively impact blind and low-vision guests from Houston and around the world.”

Aira is a service that connects people who are blind or have low vision to highly trained, remotely-located agents. At the touch of a button, Aira delivers instant access to information, enhancing everyday efficiency, engagement, and independence.