Airbnb launches new accessibility features for disabled travellers

Great news for travellers and holidaymakers who have disabilities as Airbnb has released 21 new accessibility filters across the platform, making it easier for disabled guests to find accessible travel accommodation worldwide. Accessibility differs wildly from country to country and there is often not a huge amount of information about how accessible venues are – the new filters on Airbnb are going to change this. Airbnb revolutionised the travel industry when it launched a few years ago and has completely changed how people travel – and now it looks like the company is doing the same for disabled community and opening up accessibility. 

The new filters allow Airbnb guests to search for listings with specific features, including step-free entry to rooms, entryways that are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and more. Previously, guests on Airbnb were only able to search for “wheelchair accessible” listings, which did not always meet travellers’ individual needs.

Srin Madipalli, Accessibility Product and Program Manager at Airbnb, meets with Airbnb hosts and guests to ensure Airbnb meets their accessibility needs. “As a disabled person and passionate traveller, I am hugely excited by the changes we’re making at Airbnb. With these new filters, we are making it easier for everyone to share their adapted homes with disabled travellers around the world. Our mission is to enable anyone to belong anywhere, regardless of disability,” he said.

Srin Madipalli in Singapore

The introduction of the new filters is one in a series of steps Airbnb is taking to ensure its community is accessible for everyone. In late 2017, Airbnb acquired Accomable, the London-based accessible travel startup founded in 2015 by Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley – two friends with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Accomable linked disabled travellers with listings that met their needs, making people more independent and confident in travelling. It was Airbnb’s first step to making its vast range of short-term lets more accessible.

Going forward, Airbnb will be working closely with its community of hosts and guests to ensure the new filters offer information which is as useful and accurate as possible, with the aim to improve and expand the filters to ensure they support as many travellers as possible. After all, disability should be no barrier to travelling the world. 

Srin Madipalli in Porto Valley

“The introduction of the new accessibility features and filters to all hosts and guests is just the first stage in our journey to improve accessibility at Airbnb,” added Madipalli. “We encourage everyone to use them and send through their feedback.”

Airbnb’s new accessibility features and filters are fairly thorough. It allow guests to search for listings with some or all of the following features, side doorway, well lit path to entrance, flat path to front door when entering the home. If there are wide hallways, at least 36″ (90cm) wide, elevators if needed, and it allows you to contact hosts about the width. In the bedroom, if there is step-free access, a wide doorway, accessible-height bed, and wide clearance to bed. In the bathroom, if there is step-free access, a wide doorway, roll-in shower with chair, bathtub with shower chair, accessible-height toilet, wide clearance to shower and toilet, fixed grab bars for shower and toilet and a handheld shower head. In the common areas, if there is step-free access and wide entryway. In terms of parking, if there is a disabled parking spot, a city-approved parking spot or a parking space at least 8ft (2.4m) wide.

Of course, now that we will have all the information about how accessible every space on Airbnb actually is, the next question is how will Airbnb make every holiday rental accessible? 

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