How can we make the world more accessible for disabled travellers?

  • Design thinking training

Through a Design & Society approach, Airbnb and ADG highlight the role of systems-thinking in designing robust online to in-person interactions.

Design and Disability with Airbnb

With the rise and improvement of portable technology, such as smartphones, the digital world continues to integrate itself into our real life world. As a result of this transformation the demand for technology platforms to easily facilitate real world interactions has been steadily growing and rising.

These interactions could easily become overly complexified, however organizations like Uber and Airbnb show us that companies who can negotiate complex in-person services into simple online interactions can grow into multi-billion dollar companies. Starting with the founder renting his own apartment, Airbnb’s platform now offers over 7 Million listings and is valued at $30 plus Billion.

Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom

This transition and negotiation from online to in-person is even more challenging for people with physical disabilities. However, it also presents a great opportunity. By designing for people with disabilities, in fact, we learn how to design better for all users – abled and disabled. Considering disabled users in combination with a Design & Society approach helps us as designers consider the way users receive in-person services through digital platforms.

With this goal in mind, Noteh teamed up with the head of Airbnb’s In-Home Accessibility team, Srin Madipalli, to offer a conversation and share some practical techniques for industry professionals at the Speculative Futures Meetup.

Accomable, founded by Srin, allowed disabled travelers to stay in homes while travelling. Aquired by Airbnb in 2017.

Product Design

The exchange with Srin and Airbnb led participants to walk away with a deeper understanding of the relationship that disabled users navigate the same everyday interactions that most people would take for granted. With this understanding, Srin and the Airbnb team offered practical tips and considerations when designing in-person services on a digital platform for users with disabilities.

The solution involved both hosts and guests. For hosts, a detailed onboarding exercise was added in order to be approved guests with disabilities and verify the space. For guests, the focus was on building confidence that the space would meet their needs through detailed accesibility options. Creating consistent photography standards that allowed guests to confidently assess the space allowed guests to feel their needs were understood.

A wide variety of features for guests to assess accessibility in homes

This solution led to a deeper understanding, from a Design and Society perspective, of considering a multiplicity of perspectives into the design solution in order to create something that works best for both the average user and users on the fringe. Also, the solution highlighted how systems-thinking is crucial to building robust design solutions at all stages of the innovation process, even once a product is already established.