An Alarming Study Shows Airbnb Hosts Are Far More Likely To Reject Guests With Disabilities

The discrepancy didn’t change even after Airbnb updated its discrimination guidelines.

The disability gaps in preapprovals for travelers with cerebral palsy or spinal cord injury appear to be smaller, but not eliminated among listings advertised as “wheelchair accessible,” although the power of the comparisons is limited by the small number of hosts in this group.Traveling with a disability is a hardship that many of us never face, but for those that do, the process can require far more planning and struggle. While many hotels both domestic and abroad, are held to standards that ensure facilities and access for the disabled, the rise of Airbnb short-term rentals complicates matters for disabled guests looking to book on such platforms.

Private residences aren’t subject to the same design standards with disabled guests in mind, so when booking, many such users will reach out with questions that pertain to their needs in the accommodations.

When disabled guests ask these questions prior to booking, a newly released Rutgers University study finds that they are significantly less likely to be pre-approved by the hosts to stay in their homes. The study of 3,800 booking requests reveals that likelihood of pre-approval varies significantly with the disability being shared.

From The New York Times:

Hosts granted preapproval to 75 percent of travelers who made no mention of a disability, according to the study. That rate fell to 61 percent for those who said they had dwarfism, 50 percent for those with blindness, 43 percent for those with cerebral palsy, and just 25 percent for those with spinal cord injuries.

While those differences initially appear staggering, the discrepancies are somewhat overrepresented in instances when the host responds with follow-up questions, before eventually granting approval or a later preapproval. It’s also likely that some of the rejections may be due to the fact that the host’s offering cannot accommodate a person due to its situation, design, or layout.

The latter possibility has been acknowledged by those questioning the study’s methodology.

Nonetheless, even listings featuring wheelchair accessibility were more likely to turn away disabled candidates, albeit at a smaller rate than those that didn’t. The study states:

The disability gaps in preapprovals for travelers with cerebral palsy or spinal cord injury appear to be smaller, but not eliminated, among listings advertised as ‘wheelchair accessible,’ although the power of the comparisons is limited by the small number of hosts in this group.

A number of issues and questions arise from these findings. The most obvious of which are the individual instances of discrimination that may be represented in these aggregate findings. But of equal importance is the outsourcing or standards, practices, and judgment made by unlicensed individuals, not only platforms like Airbnb, but on ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft as well.

The decentralization of policy on these platforms, despite corporate-issued guidelines for the hosts, threatens to circumvent or undo much of the work that’s been done by activists for the disabled over decades.

Mason Ameri, one of the study’s authors, warns, “If we’re entering an era where these new types of hotels, which are essentially private homes, can’t offer accommodations, it defeats and undoes all of the progress we’ve made with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as far as equal access is concerned.”

The study also revealed that Airbnb’s policy regarding discrimination, which was revised in September during the six-month study duration, had no significant effect on rates of rejection for disabled guests. Given that the study reveals Airbnb’s guidelines have had little impact, many disabled travelers are turning to more specific sites such as Accomable, which offers accessible listings in a similar fashion.


When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE. Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less