Given that the first blog on this site was about my travels to Sicily as a disabled traveller and someone in a wheelchair, I thought it would be nice to return to that whole “travelling with a disability” theme and a current event that may have an impact on those who travel with a disability, Airbnb’s acquisition of Accomable, in terms of what I think about the move and what impact it may have on disabled travellers who have previously booked with Accomable or who may wish to book with Airbnb in the future.
Now I have to admit, I only recently found out about this move via an article my mum sent me. This one to be specific ( www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42019898 ) so thanks mama bear for the heads up on this one!
For those of you who don’t know (like I didn’t) Accomable is a website, much like Airbnb, where hosts can list their properties for people to rent for holidays and any other periods of time, the difference with Accomable is that the site only lists fully accessible and disabled friendly properties (hence why the article above refers to it as “disabled Airbnb). The site was set up in 2015 by 2 friends with Spinal Muscular Atrophy who were frustrated at the lack of fully, appropriately accessible places for them to stay when they themselves were travelling. See the link (https://www.accomable.com/about) if you want more information as no one can explain their mission better than they can.
Now I personally wish we’d found this site before our girly trip to Sicily as it would have made finding an accessible place to stay much easier and would have reduced a lot of stress about whether the place we had booked would actually be as accessible as listed when we arrived. But I guess without our accessibility hurdles on that trip so many #invinciblewomen moments would not have happened and Invincible Woman On Wheels would never have existed, so it’s about every cloud having a silver lining in that sense.
I personally feel that having people with a disability running an accommodation website for travellers with a disability means I trust it more, in that I trust that the photos I see on the site are photos of the actual building and that it is as accessible as it is listed to be, as I believe you can only know about disability and what travellers with a disability would want from an accommodation site aimed at them, if you yourself have lived with or have personal experience of disability.
Furthermore, I’m also glad disabled travel is being incorporated into “mainstream” travel whereby travellers with a disability can use the same sites that everyone else does to find accommodation and not be worried that the accommodation they book won’t meet their requirements. I want to travel just like everyone else and not have my disability define my travelling experience just like it doesn’t define the rest of my life (and yes I know that’s a massive cliché).
Now some of you may say “but Airbnb have a wheelchair accessible listings feature” and yes, yes they do and I’ve used it but the wheelchair accessibility of accommodation and listing is decided by the hosts who list their properties and, as far as I’m aware, the only person who vets accessibility of listings is the hosts themselves. This can often mean listings aren’t accurate/correct or detailed enough for the needs of travellers (see ‘The Beginning’ for my experience of Airbnb wheelchair accessible listings) https://invinciblewomanonwheels.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/the-beginning/ and yes I’m aware I just promoted a blog post within a blog post, how very self-indulgent of me.
Other people may say “why not just use a disabled hotel booking site like DisabledAccessHolidays.com (http://www.disabledaccessholidays.com/ )” and my answer to that is because frankly I don’t want to have my holiday and holiday planning defined by the adaptations needed for my disability unless ABSOLUTELY necessary (see earlier cliché about not being defined by my disability and blah blah blah) and by ABSOLUTELY necessary I mean, when travelling with my dad, the NEED to have a roll in shower so that I can deal with my own personal care by myself (because heaven knows he’d rather not help me with that at my age and I’d rather he didn’t have to help me).
The one thing I am worried about is Airbnb essentially swallowing up Accomable and forgetting all about why Accomable was set up in the first place, as usually happens when a large company absorbs a smaller company into its fold. This is why I am glad that the Accomable CEO is working with Airbnb to properly incorporate Accomable listings in to Airbnb listings (read the company’s statement about the move here (https://www.accomable.com/) as yet again only they can explain their mission in the best way).
I hope this has been an insight into accommodation when travelling with a disability and the impact a move such as this could have on travellers with a disability.