A London firm sparked by two disabled people’s frustration at hotels’ inaccurate information on accessibility has been bought by Airbnb.
Accomable was founded by two friends with spinal muscular atrophy in 2015.
Former corporate lawyer Srin Madipalli came up with the idea after he quit his job to travel the world and found it difficult to find appropriate hotels.
“You’d turn up to places and the shower was tiny or there was a step to get in. It’s just really humiliating,” he says.
He persuaded childhood friend Martyn Sibley to join him, and together they created a website aimed at making it easier for disabled people to travel.
Like Airbnb, home owners are able to rent out rooms or entire properties via the website which only shows places which have step-free access and detailed information on accessibility adaptations.
‘We can do more’
Airbnb said Accomable would now be wound down over the next few months, with the listings incorporated into its own website,
It said that the firm’s founders and most of its seven-person staff would stay on and help Airbnb improve the accuracy of its accessibility listings.
“While we have rules that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and an Open Doors policy that helps ensure everyone can find a place to stay, it’s clear that we can do more to effectively serve people with disabilities,” Airbnb said.
The rental website said it was already working on new “accessibility needs” checklists for hosts.
Airbnb didn’t say how much it had paid for Accomable, but Mr Madipalli said the sale would enable it to finally meet customers’ demands.
He said up until now the website had not had enough cash or staff, meaning it could only fulfil about 5 to 10% of booking requests.
“We see the need every day, which is why we wanted to team up with a bigger player,” Mr Madipalli said.
And the other change, Mr Madipalli said was that he would now start using Airbnb himself.
Up until now the lack of wheelchair-accessible rentals had stopped him.
“But I look forward to trying it out,” he says.