Report: Many of Airbnb’s NYC locations are inaccessible

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man in wheelchair at bottom of steps, with his head in his hands

“Wheelchair Accessible” Airbnb Accommodations

A coalition of disability advocates have sent a letter to New York City and State officials, concerning Airbnb’s alleged failure to ensure its rental facilities comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New York Post reported November 3.

“Imagine the nightmare scenario of paying hundreds of dollars for a room that Airbnb says is ‘wheelchair accessible,’ getting on a plane and showing up — only to find that the bedroom is in a loft with a ladder, or there is no elevator in the building,” Edit Prentiss of Disabled in Action told the New York Post.

The popular San Francisco-based room-rental service advertises certain rooms on its website as “wheelchair accessible.” However, the letter, which is not publicly available, describes multiple locations listed as “wheelchair accessible” that contain steep spiral staircases, inaccessible entrances and other architectural barriers, according to the New York Post.

Similar to Uber and other highly touted “sharing economy” companies, Airbnb has become a source of much commentary in recent months from disability advocates, who argue that these companies emphasize convenience at the expense of their accessibility obligations. These concerns are particularly prominent in San Francisco, which just passed a comprehensive new law to regulate Airbnb’s rental listings.

“With the increasingly mainstream popularity of services like Uber and Airbnb, it’s clear these peer-to-peer services are here to stay. But it’s also clear that, for these new sharing economy companies, you’re no peer of theirs if you have a disability,” the Daily Beast’s Elizabeht Heidman wrote in a column pubished October 4.

Airbnb argues that it is responsive to such concerns.

“If we receive complaints about a listing being improperly listed as wheelchair accessible, our team investigates immediately and we work with the guest to find them another place to stay,” Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas told the New York Post.