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Airbnb Hosts More Likely To Reject The Disabled, A Study Finds

Airbnb Hosts More Likely to Reject the Disabled, a Study Finds

When Crystal Marie Garcia decided to try the home-rental service Airbnb for the first time, she had a few questions.

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.

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.

Some of that disparity can be explained by hosts who followed up with questions for the travelers with disabilities, the researchers said, thus preventing the request from being classified as preapproved. Requests were sent to hosts throughout the country over a nearly six-month period last year.

The researchers could not solely blame the findings on personal prejudice. They said physical inaccessibility was a major factor behind the disparity in hosts’ responses. That, they said, raised concerns that businesses like Airbnb could exclude users with disabilities even as they expand access to services over all.

“Here’s the flip side of our tech revolution: Platforms like Airbnb seem to be perpetuating or increasing opportunities for exclusion, both economic and social,” said Lisa Schur, a professor in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations and one of the study authors.

With more than three million listings, Airbnb has introduced new lodging options around the world, including many that meet the needs of people with disabilities. Last year, the company also instituted a nondiscrimination policy and took steps to better handle complaints of bias, including assurances that users…

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