New York Times: Airbnb Hosts More Likely to Reject the Disabled, a Study Finds

The New York Times reported on a Rutgers University study that found that Airbnb hosts are more likely to reject disabled travelers looking for lodging.

From the article:

Ms. Garcia, who is from El Paso, was planning a May trip with her family to the Chicago area and wanted to know if the places she was considering could accommodate her needs as someone with muscular dystrophy. Unfortunately, she said, her questions appeared to scare off at least two potential hosts.

She said she feels that if she had not mentioned her disability, “they would have rented to me, no issue.”

Ms. Garcia is not alone in feeling that way. Other users have reported similar bias, and a new Rutgers University study — based on more than 3,800 Airbnb lodging requests sent by the researchers — suggests it may be common: Travelers with disabilities are more likely to be rejected and less likely to receive preapproval, or temporary clearance, for a potential stay, the authors found.

We’ve long documented the problems associated with Airbnb. The disturbances to neighborhoods. The ruinous effect on affordable housing stock. The dangers posed by flouting basic zoning and safety rules.

Well, we now have proof of something we’ve heard again and again across the country: Airbnb allows hosts to disregard the civil rights of travelers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that, in part, protects people with disabilities by requiring certain businesses – including lodging businesses – to make common sense and reasonable accommodations.

Airbnb and its illegal hotel operators are running lodging businesses, but they ignore the laws that apply. And the study shows that this pernicious problem continues on the platform even after Airbnb committed itself last year to a policy “inclusion and respect.”

Again, from the New York Times:

“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 A.D.A. as far as equal access is concerned,” said Mason Ameri, one of the authors of the Rutgers study and a postdoctoral fellow at the university’s School of Management and Labor Relations. “The law needs to catch up with services like Airbnb.”

So, what does this really mean? According to Lisa Schur, one of the study’s authors and a professor at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, “Platforms like Airbnb seem to be perpetuating or increasing opportunities for exclusion, both economic and social.”

Zoning rules exist for a reason. Health and safety rules exist for a reason. The Americans with Disabilities Act exists for a reason.

What will it take for Airbnb to finally realize that it isn’t above the law?