The vacation rental giant Airbnb announced on November 16 that it had acquired the London-based accessible vacation rental startup, Accomable. The companies declined to disclose the price and terms of the deal, but did say that Airbnb would be working to immediately add Accomable’s roughly 1,100 accessible house and apartment listings to its portfolio.
Srin Madipalli co-founded Accomable two years ago with Martin Sibley after being frustrated by the lack of reliable accessibility information when looking for places to stay. Both Madipalli and Sibley have spina muscular atrophy. Accomable’s hallmark was detailed, verified accessibility features for all of its listings, something that Airbnb has struggled with.
Airbnb acknowledged those issues in a blog post announcing their acquisition of Accomable: “Previously, travelers with disabilities could only search for homes that were labeled as ‘wheelchair accessible’ when they were searching for an accessible place to stay. Guests weren’t getting the information they needed to find the right homes, nor the confidence that the home they selected would actually be accessible for them.”
Madipalli, along with his team, have transitioned from Accomable and are now working full-time with Airbnb to improve the accessibility of their listings. Madipalli will be Airbnb’s Accessibility Product and Program Manager in San Francisco.
Airbnb was already in the process of rolling out new accessibility features when it acquired Accomable. Now, the Accomable team will be working to make sure customers have the detailed information they need, including: how many stairs a listing has and if there is an elevator, the exact width of doorways, accessible bathroom features that will distinguish between a tub with grab rails and a roll in shower, and the height of beds.
Madipalli says he empathizes with those in the disability community who fear that the specialized accessibility features Accomable has worked so hard to apply will disappear and Airbnb will only implement a minor change or two without substantively changing their accessibility accountability.
“I know many in the Accomable community gained comfort from the fact that Accomable was created with a focus on accessibility and I am very sensitive to the fact that some in our community may be concerned that accessibility will again become an afterthought that is drowned out within a larger platform,” he says. “During our time at Airbnb, we were left in no doubt that Airbnb shares our mission and we are convinced that joining Airbnb provides the best opportunity to take our dream and mission to a global level, using the current reach of Airbnb’s community of 4 million hosts and 100 million guests to work together and make the world more accessible.”