Is Airbnb’s purchase of Accomable a good thing for people with disabilities?
Did anyone else notice Friday’s low-key announcement that Airbnb had bought Accomable? Over my Sunday lunch, I have been mulling over whether it’s a good or bad thing?
Before I continue, I will assume you are familiar with Airbnb, but have you ever used Accomable website?
Accomable's website was created in summer of 2015 by 2 friends with disabilities who traveled the world. In their words. ‘…Frustrated by the difficulty of finding accessible places to stay and reliable information, Accomable was created to make it easier for everyone to travel, regardless of disability..’ i.e. a sort of Airbnb for people with disabilities.
I have followed Accomable with interest. In 2015, I was involved with a fully accessible hotel in Porthcawl called The Glamorgan Holiday Hotel (part of Cartrefi Cymru, Wales’s leading learning disability support co-operative). Naturally, I sought to get The Glamorgan listed on Accomable and was impressed with the extremely detailed accessibility questionnaire I had to complete. Even this hotel could not meet every need and I liked that users could specifically filter potential accommodation to their accessibility needs. Even in the early days of Accomable, The Glamorgan had a couple of bookings via this site and I exchanged emails with the Srin, one of the co-founders wishing them well.
2 years on and Airbnb have bought Accomable. They have immediately suspended Accomable and plan to transfer the knowledge into Airbnb.
So, is this good or bad thing?
On the plus side, it means that more accessible properties should appear on Airbnb. Also of note in the press release, was that Airbnb is not just buying the site, but they are also transferring the Accomable staff team to Airbnb to specifically work on improving Airbnb’s accessibility credentials. This has got to be a good thing, and therefore I have four ‘hopes’ for the future:
1) I hope their passion and knowledge is mainstreamed across the Airbnb organisation.
2) I hope this deal makes it harder for accommodation providers to advertise on Airbnb as accessible when they aren’t.
3) I hope the accessibility filter on Airbnb becomes much more detailed allowing users to filter to their needs.
4) I hope that accommodation providers that discriminate against people with disabilities get hit with negative reviews on their money-making Airbnb listings.
However, I feel some loss for this specific website that was solely focused on ensuring that the properties on their site were accessible (to different levels) and that users could search for something that suited their needs. The tough standards of Accomable provided much-needed reassurance.
I hope the former Accomable staff can exert influence within one of the biggest websites in the world. If they can, they can become real agents of change and therefore a positve development.
So, are there other sources of reliable guides to accessible accommodation? I have been a long-standing admirer of Euan’s Guide and they will continue the carry the torch for quality, independent accessibility reviews.
What do you think readers? Did you use Accomable? Are you more of a fan of Euan’s Guide? Or do you have another preferred site? Please let me know.
Director, TPAS Cymru
Why not read more about the announcement and the thoughts of Srin the former CEO
+ Press coverage:
The Telegraph’s article
BBC’s coverage on this subject