Airbnb opens doors to better accessibility

Airbnb is launching an initiative to help people with special needs find holiday accommodation tailored to their requirements.

The bookings platform, which prides itself on the mantra of being ‘for everyone’, has introduced 27 new accessibility filters to make it easier for people to find homes which fit their needs.

The initiative also allows hosts to better market their home’s accessible features to incoming guests.

The move follows Airbnb’s acquisition of Accomable, a London-based a travel start-up which links travellers with disabilities with appropriate listings.

According to Tourism Research Australia, an estimated 20 per cent of Australian adults have a disability or long-term health condition and Statistics New Zealand found as many as one in four New Zealanders have a physical, sensory, learning, mental health or other disability.

Accomable was founded in 2015 by friends Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley, both avid travellers who found it hard to organise trips as spinal muscular atrophy sufferers and wheelchair users.

Accomable’s existing hosts will be offered first listings on Airbnb. It currently lists 1,100 properties in 60 countries with details about step-free access, other accessibility adaptations and with photos to show facilities to would-be visitors.

Over time, the platform will look to create communities for travellers with accessibility needs, and potentially move into areas aligned with Airbnb’s experiences branch – an area of travel in which, Madipalli says, those needing special accessibility have been under served.

“It’s something that has frustrated me from the start, that we weren’t able to do everything for everyone,” he said.

“One of the challenges in an early start-up is that you have constrained resources, but within Airbnb we can diversify.”

Airbnb has always offered the ability to search whether a property is wheelchair accessible, but the company acknowledges its information for those with disabilities was inadequate.

“Guests weren’t getting the information they needed to find the right homes, nor the confidence that the home they selected would actually be accessible for them,” it noted in a blog post.

Now, the company has updated listings to say, for example, whether there is step-free entry to rooms, and if entryways are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

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