Airbnb has updated its search filters and accessibility review process with the goal of making it easier for people with disabilities to find accommodations on its platform, the company announced in a blog post.
Hosts can now submit pictures of the accessibility features in their homes, and “a specialized team of Airbnb agents” will review them to determine if they’re suitable for people with disabilities. On its accessibility review page, Airbnb says that this team works “with engineers, designers, and others across the company” but doesn’t specifically state whether they’re trained or how they’re qualified to recognize accessibility features.
We reached out to Suzanne Edwards, Airbnb’s head of hosting accessibility standards, for a clearer answer. “Airbnb agents are trained based on a rigorous set of accessibility photo standards,” she explained. “For instance, for a Host to list an accessible parking spot — a private driveway at least 11 feet wide or a parking spot designated for a person with disabilities with clear signage — they must show the proximity of the parking spot to the guest entrance, as well as the signage or markings for a designated accessible space, or capture the entire driveway with a parked vehicle if possible to show its width.”
Airbnb says its staff has already reviewed and approved 100,000 accessibility features in 25,000 different homes globally, which CEO Brian Chesky noted on Twitter.
Accessibility Review:— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) November 9, 2021
We’re reviewing every accessibility feature on Airbnb for accuracy. To date, our agents have double checked photos of features in more than 25,000 homes. pic.twitter.com/CfDh808qGM
Airbnb also updated its search filters for accessibility features. Some filters, like ones for step-free bedroom access and accessible parking spaces, will now be shown more prominently on the search screen. Airbnb made filters pertaining to wide entryways slightly more specific by adding a more precise measurement. For example, instead of “wide entrance to bedroom,” Airbnb changed it to “bedroom entrance wider than 32 inches.” As it stands, these 13 filters are still fairly limited.
Airbnb also announced that it’s making it easier to find accessible Experiences, improving its 11 accessibility filters to allow guests to find activities near their rental that offer features like sign language, provide access to accessible bathrooms, take place on a flat surface, and more. Airbnb is also requiring hosts to submit detailed information about the accessibility measures they’re taking, which then goes under review for “description quality.” Each Experience listing will also clearly show its available accessibility features.
In 2017, a study found that Airbnb hosts were more likely to reject guests with disabilities, and in 2018, the company rolled out an accessibility update adding 21 filters that let guests search for homes with wider entrances, accessible bathrooms, and more. The number of filters has since dropped to 13, which is a bit strange.
Previous filters, like “wide clearance to bed,” “accessible height toilet,” and “handheld showerhead,” are now missing from the current list. An Airbnb spokesperson told The Verge that the company decided to simplify the list, stating: “To better serve our guests, and with input from our community and partners, we have updated the filters to make it easier for guests to find homes which suit their needs. One of those updates is simplifying to focus on essential and most used filters.”
Airbnb first started requiring hosts to upload photos of the accessibility features in their stays in 2019, but it’s been long overdue for an update. “We’ve continuously been working to improve our offerings with input from our community and with experts from the disability community, and we will continue to do so,” Edwards told The Verge.
Update November 10th, 5PM ET: Updated to add statements from Suzanne Edwards and an Airbnb spokesperson.