In an effort to make their offerings more accessible to wheelchair-users and slow walkers, San Francisco-based Airbnb plans to roll out some new access features on their popular vacation rental website. According to a company spokesperson, “Focusing only on most or some of our guests goes against our company’s vision of creating a world where everyone can belong. To design effectively, we need to continually question our assumptions and find ways to remain aware if and when our solutions don’t work for everyone.”
To that end, Airbnb will be adding additional access filters to their search criteria, so wheelchair-users and slow walkers can find properties that better suit their needs. They will also clearly define these filters, so owners will be able to easily determine if their properties meet the standards required to list them as “accessible”.
Previously the Airbnb website only contained one “wheelchair-accessible” filter that travelers could check when they searched for a property. There were no standards established for this filter, which led to a lot of confusion for the owners, and often resulted in disappointed and unhappy guests. After all, what’s “wheelchair-accessible” to one person, may present formidable obstacles to another person.
Moving forward, new filters including “step-free entry” and “wide doorways” will be added to the search criteria. Additionally, Airbnd will specifically define each access filter. For example, “wide” is a rather ambiguous term, so Airbnb defines it as “being at least 36 inches wide.” That way owners will know that if their doorways are not at least 36 inches wide, they cannot check the “wide doorways” filter. Travelers will also have access to the filter criteria definition, so they will be able to understand the exact degree of access in each property.
These changes were instituted after what Airbnb described as “insightful and humbling conversations” with disability advocacy groups such as the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. Airbnb’s November 2018 acquisition of Accomable — a database of accessible lodging offerings — also signals their intent to more effectively address the needs of disabled travelers. These new access features are scheduled to appear soon on the web version of Airbnb, as well as the iOS and Android apps.