If you’re an Airbnb host then you’ll be familiar with the practice of equipping your space to meet as many of Airbnb’s requirements as possible. Does your place have WiFi? Can you provide some bathroom essentials? Should you invest in a hairdryer, an iron, or even a coffee machine?
These are all common areas to address. And in fact, if you fail to provide one of these common amenities, you’re likely to fall behind your competition.
But what factors can put you ahead of your rivals? Well, one often overlooked area is accessibility for the disabled.
The Gap in the Market
Let’s take the UK for example. There are as many as 13.3 million disabled people in the UK, yet a quick Airbnb search in London with all the accessibility boxes ticked shows zero listings. Astounding right?
For such a whopping market, this seems like a big missed opportunity.
Hotels aren’t so far behind, however. In Central London, the guidelines are that 10% of hotel rooms be made accessible. So this leaves the disabled customers relying on the big hotel brands, and Airbnb gets overlooked.
What Does Airbnb Look For?
Airbnb themselves are fully equipped to provide this service, however. Their search functionality offers 21 tick boxes around accessibility for the disabled — so guests can find a home that’s suitable for their needs.
Some of these factors will depend on the structure of your home, so not all homes will be suitable. But if yours is, then there are just a few more areas that you could address to make your home fully accessible.
Here’s a breakdown of what Airbnb look for:
Entering the home
The first thing to address is step-free access. This includes a flat path to the front door, as well as step-free access into the home.
The entrance should be at least 80cm (32”) wide to be officially classed as a wide doorway. This is more suitable for wheelchair users which may need a wider access point.
Airbnb also ask for a well-lit path to the entrance, so guests can easily navigate if they enter or leave in the dark.
Getting around & common areas
Getting around the home from room to room is also important. Hallways should be at least 90cm (36”) wide to have wide hallway clearance and if guests are expected to go upstairs then an elevator in the building is necessary.
All entryways to common areas should be at least 80cm (32”) wide, as well as being step-free.
Step-free access is also a must here (as in all rooms), as is the wide doorway.
Specific to the bedroom however, is an accessible height bed. This is defined in BS8300 as between 480mm and 540mm from the floor to the top of the mattress. Airbnb also includes tick box for a wide clearance to the bed, which British Standard 8300 defines as a space no less than 1500mm x 1500mm.
These are both in place for wheelchair users who need space to transfer from their wheelchair to the bed, with the bed being of a height that offers the least inconvenience.
Step-free access and a wide doorway feature here too, as does a wide clearance to the shower and toilet for the reasons mentioned above.
Specific to the bathroom are two options for your bath and/or shower: a roll-in shower with a chair or a bathtub with a shower chair. These chairs are necessary for those unable or less able to stand, such as those with a physical disability or the elderly.
If you can offer both options, great. If you can’t then you need to think about which option offers the most accessibility for your guests. The roll-in shower offers step-free access, as wheelchair users can enter the shower directly before egressing onto the shower chair. For those with more mobility but, such as the elderly, a simple shower chair installed in the bath can offer heightened accessibility.
Also on Airbnb’s tick box list is a simple handheld shower head (which is an easy win for most hosts) as well as an accessible-height toilet, which should measure 480mm from the floor to the top of the toilet seat.
Finally on the bathroom checklist is fixed grab rails for the shower and toilet, to aid users who need a sturdy support when moving around or using the bathroom. Grab rails can be easily sourced from many manufacturers and are easily installed.
And finally, a disabled parking spot is a useful feature. This is either a city-approved bay or one that’s at least 2.4m (8ft) wide; so your driveway may already qualify.
Who's Doing it Right?
So that’s what Airbnb looks for from an accessible home. So who’s doing it well? Well surprisingly there are only a few!
First up is this cozy, self-catered cottage in Ashbourne in the Peak District. The building ticked all the boxes for being wide enough with step-free access throughout. So by installing a fully accessible bathroom in this home, the hosts have created a desirable listing for the disabled market.
Second on the list is this stunning barn conversion in Sutton Mandeville near Salisbury. Again the property was naturally suitable for accessibility, so by making one of the bathrooms an accessible wet room, you’ve created a viable holiday home for those who need accessibility.
And last, but by no means least, is this jaw-dropping luxury lakehouse near Slaidburn, within the Forest of Bowland; an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This stunning barn conversion is set within 3 acres of private woodland — complete with its very own lake! This home ticks 18 of the 21 accessibility points laid out by Airbnb, so this would likely be a first-choice destination for many disabled people.
Now is the Time
If you’re debating whether to add accessibility to the agenda for your Airbnb re-fit, do it! Now is definitely the time. At the end of 2017 Airbnb acquired a startup called Accomable, which is targeted at disabled travelers. This can only reaffirm the importance of providing these amenities. After all, there could be a huge market out there just waiting to book your accessible Airbnb home.
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