It ain’t necessarily so

By | Category: Travel news

If you saw the headline,” Airbnb hosts are more likely to reject prospective guests who have disclosed a disability,” you might become prejudiced against the company thinking it were true and how appalling in this modern age.

A study from the American university, Rutgers, seems to show that disabled customers were up to 40% more likely to be rejected by those who owned the properties. The university spent months looking at just 4,000 bookings in the mainland USA which seems a fairly small amount compared to the number of bookings that Airbnb must have in the USA.

Why such a small number? Because the booking enquiries were fabricated ones issued by the team of researchers at Rutgers.  That concerns me slightly because it feels wrong to take this approach  when it should have been possible to use disabled people who might have greater insight into the problems disabled bookers might have.

The study was to compare rates of pre-approval compared to able bodied guests and found that 75% of bookers were pre-approved if they didn’t disclose their disability.

Disabilities were grouped into four areas for the study – spinal cord injuries, which were approved only 25% of the time, cerebral palsy, (43%) dwarfism  (61%) and blindness (50%).

Rutgers did say that it found many hosts were upfront about its accessibility limitations and happy to work to accommodate travellers with disabilities. But the press release went on to say, “People with disabilities have a history of social exclusion,” said Lead Researcher Mason Ameri, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. “The rise of Internet-based platforms for some services threatens to perpetuate and possibly increase their exclusion. Many of the newly-available services are not fully accessible and may create more opportunities for both intentional and unintentional discrimination.”

Private houses are dissimilar from public buildings. I won’t convert my house so that it would be suitable for anyone with a disability. My house suits me otherwise why would I have bought it? It is at least 150 years old, with narrow, steep staircases, completely unacceptable for my blind mother to visit or stay in. It wouldn’t suit tall people as the cottage style house has low ceilings. Built on rocky ground it wouldn’t suit those who are not certain of the footsteps and wheelchair people would have enormous problems as I found out when my mother-in-law become wheelchair bound.

As I said, Rutgers said that many householders pointed up accessibility limitations. But to suggest that householders are discriminating whether it be blatantly or unintentionally is galling and insulting to the vast majority of people who place their accommodation for others to rent.

If Rutgers were to replicate the study in the UK, they would find an even lower number of acceptances of disabled people. And it would have nothing to do with discrimination –just the type of houses that make up our housing stock.

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