Srin Madipalli, cofounder of Accomable, which was acquired by Airbnb
When Accomable first launched in 2015, the press immediately coined it as "Airbnb for disabled people." The moniker would be prophetic.
On Thursday, Airbnb is announcing that it has acquired Accomable as part of an effort to better suit travelers with disabilities on its homesharing platform.
Srin Madipalli cofounded the website with his friend Martyn Sibley in 2015 after the two shared the problem of finding places that were accessible or had reliable information while traveling. Even places that listed themselves as wheelchair accessible would sometimes not fit their needs.
Accomable was launched as a solution where people could advertise renting their homes or hotels and specify what accessibility features a place had, from a hand bar in the shower to an electric adjustable bed. Since then, Accomable has grown to over 1,100 listings in over 60 countries -- all of which have step-free access and detailed information on their accessibility features.
Madipalli's expertise in the area is what drew Airbnb's interest. Compared to Accomable, which lists over a dozen different accessibility features, Airbnb only listed "wheelchair accessible" as an option for travelers with disabilities.
Catering to travelers with disabilities has been an admitted weakness of Airbnb, in part because its homesharing model means that properties do not have to be ADA compliant. A 2017 Rutgers study found that Airbnb hosts were more likely to reject guests with disabilities, especially people with spinal cord injuries who may need more special accommodation to move around.
As part of the acquisition, Madipalli will be joining Airbnb as accessibility product and product manager to address a lot of its problems. Part of his role will be helping oversee how Airbnb applies new filters for accessiblity features and extend accessibility into some of its newer features like Trips, Airbnb's version of tours and activities. The rest of the Accomable team will also be receiving offers to join the Airbnb team. Neither Airbnb or Accomable would comment on the acquisition price.
Already, Airbnb is changing how it lists accessible homes on its platform by offering an accessibility checklist, ranging from door frames being 32 inches to stepfree entry, to make it easier for travelers with disabilities to have better information before they book.
Part of Madipalli's role will also be bringing on more homesharers who have already outfitted their homes with certain accessibility solutions onto the platform, much like he already did with Accomable. His website will slowly wind down over the next few months and eventually redirect entirely to Airbnb where he says he's confident that all travelers will be able to find the places they need, he said.
"We want to support travelers with disabilities in every way possible," Madipalli wrote in an email to Forbes. "This includes supporting travelers to ensure they have the right accessibility information they can trust - but it's also important that we empower entrepreneurs and hosts with disabilities to share their homes or create accessible trips for Airbnb."
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