Accessibility and inclusion was once an afterthought for most big businesses, but now the tide is turning.
At CPL we can talk about accessibility all day, but for other organisations who don’t have exposure to disability, achieving ‘accessibility’ can seem like a hard task. We love to explore the fantastic new companies that are focused on creating and innovating for people with disability, but what about the not-so-new companies we interact with every day? We are seeing an exciting shift in thinking as consumer needs move to the forefront and accessibility becomes a necessity.
One example of this is the online accommodation marketplace taking the world by storm - Airbnb. We recently saw Airbnb making waves in accessibility news when they acquired Accomable, a startup originally founded by Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley to help people with disabilities find accessible places to stay. We got in touch with
Srin to discuss his experience with accessibility, and how organisations like Accomable and Airbnb are leading the way for businesses to become more inclusive.
Srin says he’s always been passionate about accessibility, and he’s looking forward to seeing how the world continues to become more inclusive.
“I’ve never wanted to be left behind in anything, whether it’s technology, travel or any aspect of work or life," Srin said.
“It’s why I taught myself to code to build the prototype for Accomable and it’s why I decided to go travelling when I saw how much fun my friends had on their trips.”
With help from Srin, Airbnb has 27 new accessibility filters so you can find suitable places to stay worldwide. The filters let you search for things like wide doorways, roll-in showers, and step-free access.
Srin says a lot has changed since he was a kid, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
“When Airbnb’s acquisition of Accomable became public it was fantastic to see the positive reaction from disability groups, media and companies,” Srin said.
“It was an amazing moment for our team. At Accomable we all shared Airbnb’s mission to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, and as a part of Airbnb we could take our work in accessible travel to a whole new level.”
It seems accessibility is no longer an afterthought for many large organisations around the world, but we know there are many more out there that are yet to make a change. Srin was able to shed some light on how to effectively make changes to create a more accessible product or business. It sounds simple, but he says it’s about finding out what your customers want and need. Airbnb is the perfect example - they learned about Accomable which was created by customers that needed a solution, and they incorporated the solution into their business.
“The input from our community has been invaluable in ensuring we improve as we go,” he said.
“We know how important accurate information is for travellers with disabilities, for example how useful clear images of accessible features can be. So, we recently introduced a new measure which requires hosts on Airbnb to upload photos of their home’s accessibility features when they use our filters."
Airbnb is continually improving their service, and they are doing that by listening to the valuable feedback from their customers.
“We know there’s a long way to go to achieving our vision of an inclusive society for all, but as long as we know there are companies actively creating change and leading the way, we’re hopeful and excited for the future!”
Every step towards an inclusive society for all is a win in our books, and what might seem like a small step for big businesses can actually be a giant leap for people with disabilities. We’ve seen initiatives like Quiet Hour at Coles supermarkets and Hidden Disabilities at Brisbane Airport making shopping and travel experiences more comfortable for people with disabilities. More recently, LEGO released a line of Braille Bricks, a playful to teach Braille to blind and visually impaired children (and adults!).