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Airbnb’s new filters aim to improve searches for guests with disabilities

Airbnb
Airbnb

Airbnb is in the middle of rolling out a slew of changes to its service, with the latest aimed at making it easier for those with disabilities to find accessible accommodation for properties around the world.

The short-term lodging company has added new filters so that guests can more easily surface listings with specific features, including step-free entry to rooms, entryways that are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, an accessible-height bed, and a bathtub with a shower chair, among others.

Up to now, Airbnb users could only search for “wheelchair accessible” listings, which, as the company itself acknowledged in a release on Thursday, March 15, “did not always meet travelers’ individual needs.”

Srin Madipalli, accessibility product and program manager at Airbnb, and who himself lives with spinal muscular atrophy, said that the new filters demonstrate that the company is “making it easier for everyone to share their adapted homes with travelers with disabilities around the world,” adding that it is Airbnb’s mission to “enable anyone to belong anywhere, regardless of disability.”

The changes to the site follow Airbnb’s acquisition toward the end of last year of London-based Accomable, a startup aimed at helping those with disabilities to find accessible places to stay on their travels and which was co-founded by Madipalli in 2015.

Various groups have been helping Airbnb to develop the filters, among them the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL). Kelly Buckland, NCIL’s executive director, said her team is “very pleased to see this work progressing and [we] look forward to continuing our work together with Airbnb to further improve the services to travelers with disabilities.”

The accommodation site said it will monitor the new filters to ensure they’re “useful and accurate,” and, depending on user feedback, could improve and expand them over time.

Sharing-economy outfits like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft have faced criticism in the past for failing to effectively address the needs of those with disabilities. However, such companies have gradually been making changes to their services in a bid to make them more accessible, with Airbnb’s new filters the latest such effort aiming to make a positive difference.

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