Every aspect of your vacation rental is geared toward a smooth and memorable experience for your guests. But for people living with disabilities, the reality often falls short.

As Airbnb has helped move vacation rentals to the mainstream, it’s also drawn more attention to vacation rental accessibility and the gaps in hospitality often faced by those who have special needs.

This could impact how you run your vacation rental business. Depending on a number of factors, including your vacation rental’s size, you may not need to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Fair Housing Act (FHA), two pieces of federal legislation that address accessibility issues. But if you promote your properties on Airbnb, you do need to comply with Airbnb’s nondiscrimination policy. Here’s an overview of the policy and what you need to know.

Discrimination isn’t always intentional

When researchers from Rutgers University sent more than 3,800 booking inquiries to Airbnb hosts to learn more about accessibility in the sharing economy, the results weren’t great. If an inquiry didn’t mention a disability, 75 percent of bookings were pre-approved. When the inquiry mentioned an impairment, however, that number dropped — down to just 25 percent for those that referenced spinal cord injuries.

In many cases, this was less about personal prejudice and more about a reality of vacation rentals: They often aren’t set up to accommodate people with disabilities. And beyond that, many owners and property managers don’t know how to approach the issue.

How Airbnb addresses vacation rental accessibility

Airbnb calls its nondiscrimination policy a “commitment to inclusion and respect” for hosts and guests, regardless of background, experiences, beliefs, or customs. It’s something the company has made a key tenet of the platform. And if a host falls afoul of the policy, they could be suspended.

As part of this policy, Airbnb sets out detailed guidelines about what a host can and cannot do. For example, property managers:

  • Can’t decline a guest based on whether assuming the space will meet their needs
  • Can’t change the rules for someone with a disability, such as implementing different terms and conditions or limiting the use of a mobility device
  • Can’t say anything that implies a preference for or against people with disabilities

Also of note: Airbnb requires broad acceptance of service and emotional support animals, which is more inclusive than what’s required under federal legislation — not just because that legislation may not apply to your business, but also due to the variety of animals included.

Create an inclusive vacation rental listing

A key point when it comes to accessibility and nondiscrimination: It’s not up to you to decide whether or not your space is a good fit for someone else’s needs. Instead, it’s your responsibility to include enough information in your listing for someone with a disability to form their own opinion.

  • Write a detailed description of your property that includes accurate information about any accessibility features—or lack thereof.
  • Be sure to highlight accessibility features in your Airbnb listing information; travelers can use this information to filter their search results.
  • Do whatever you can to accommodate guests of all backgrounds, even if you think you have a legitimate reason to decline their booking request.

Learn more about what you can do to support guests with disabilities with this information from Airbnb

The information above is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you need legal advice, you should consult a licensed attorney in your area.