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Airbnb Hosts More Likely To Reject Guests With Disabilities, Study Finds (theguardian.com) 156

A study by Rutgers University has found that travelers with disabilities using the travel hosting service Airbnb are more likely to be rejected and less likely to be pre-approved. From a report: A Rutgers University study of nearly 4,000 requests for lodging on the home-sharing platform found that guests with blindness, cerebral palsy, dwarfism and spinal cord injury were refused at rates higher than people without disabilities. In some instances, hosts who claimed that their homes were accessible were also more likely to approve guests without disabilities, according to the research published Friday. The report raises new questions about the ethics of Airbnb's business model, following the #AirbnbWhileBlack scandal that dogged the company last year, centered on revelations that African American guests were denied access at disproportionately high rates. While traditional hotels must abide by anti-discrimination laws, startups such as Airbnb have been able to skirt longstanding regulations by arguing that they are technology companies and platforms that aren't liable for the actions of their users.
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Airbnb Hosts More Likely To Reject Guests With Disabilities, Study Finds

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  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Friday June 02, 2017 @07:27PM (#54539429) Homepage Journal

    When you have a system based on individual discretion without accountability you'll find all sorts of bias.
    Libertarians might argue that we shouldn't do business with people who are treating others unfairly. But in the same breath don't think we should monitor and report on the toxic behavior of private individuals. Without exchange of information how could their utopia of a free market really work?

    My advice is to be an affluent able-bodied white male (straight or passing). That avoid quite a few problems in life, and gives you a little bit of an edge in society.

    • Libertarians might argue that we shouldn't do business with people who are treating others unfairly. But in the same breath don't think we should monitor and report on the toxic behavior of private individuals.

      Nice strawman you got there. Would be a shame if someone asked you which libertarians exactly are opposed to individuals talking about the behaviour of other individuals.

      My advice is to be an affluent able-bodied white male (straight or passing). That avoid quite a few problems in life, and gives you a little bit of an edge in society.

      My advice would be to have a positive attitude, work hard, and stop looking for easy excuses when things don't go your way. Who knows, maybe some day you can change your name to Barack and even get elected president.

      • Nice strawman you got there. Would be a shame if someone asked you which libertarians exactly are opposed to individuals talking about the behaviour of other individuals.

        Perhaps you're right. Or perhaps I'm speaking of myself at a different time, as I used to be a card carrying big-L Libertarian.

        • I'm not in the habit of carrying cards, but I see much in the libertarian philosophy which is far superior to the status quo. And I have to question what kind of libertarian you could possibly have been that would have led you to the conclusion that you have to stop people from commenting on the behaviour of others. That seems to be completely contrary to libertarian ideals.

          It's as if you said "I used to be a card carrying capital C communist, and communists want everyone to just keep what they earn".

      • by murdocj ( 543661 )

        Or you could be a complete a-hole jerk who advocates shooting your opponent, and you could get elected President.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      Why without accountability? I rent a 400sqrft apartment in Silicone Valley. Every few years I save up for a modest vacation to a neighboring state and leave for a week, during which my apartment sits empty despite me paying rent. Why can I not use an app to rent out that apartment for the week I am gone? I can rent to whomever I please, and discriminate as much as I want. For example, I don't like nlggers and asshats. I know it's wrong and racist, but it is my apartment and my choice. There is perfec
    • Ideally, with a competent and completely free market, the asshats will be filtered out by their competition. On the other hand we need to protect true minorities (e.g. The Disabled) from the majority rule over the market.

      Things like airBNB let you make a home that's not prepared for a hotel act as a hotel.

      There is a significant cost associated with allowing everyone to stay at your place. There is maintenance, cleanup, theft prevention and a number of accessibility issues that are neither cheap nor universa

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        Not really. In a completely free market -- free even to the point of somehow not involving human biases and discrimination -- you get a basic question of "is a disabled person willing and able to pay me enough to justify supporting their disability?" And that's assuming there's enough competition to cover all consumers (ie: the bnb are deciding between a disabled person vs an empty room rather than between a disabled person and an able-bodied person.)

        For example if you want to service a blind person, you

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "That's totally different from refusing service to black people, for example, where the only reason for rejection is racism."

          Not quite, since a lot of costs are subjective. Let's try some out:

          "I need extra contents insurance since I think you may rob me."

          "I need extra life insurance because I think you may murder me."

          "I need extra hardware at the property because I think you are sub-standard as a human and require extra assistance".

          I've read through a few of the posts in this thread, and unfortunately, they

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            The reality is that living with a disability or chronic illness can really suck.

            Well Boo Hoo. If I just want to make a little extra money renting out my home short term through AirBnB though: The "your illness or whatever sucks part" is not my problem to solve. it would be most cost-efficient for me to have a standard home with no specialized features such as ramps or animals allowed and just rent this only to people who can definitely use it as is as I expect, with minimal risk, and not raise a do

          • by Altrag ( 195300 )

            "I need extra contents insurance since I think you may rob me."
            "I need extra life insurance because I think you may murder me."

            Neither of which have anything to do with skin color, outside of racist stereotyping.

            "I need extra hardware at the property because I think you are sub-standard as a human and require extra assistance".

            I doubt too many consider disabled people as "sub-standard," but that's not the same as recognizing that disabled people (by definition) have limitations that able-bodied people don't.

            The reality is that living with a disability or chronic illness can really suck

            Nobody (or at least very few people) would deny that.

            Living in a society were others discriminate against you for any reason (some of the "legitimate" reasons claimed by the assholes positing in this thread, or otherwise) really sucks.

            Trouble is, its not the people that are discriminating in a lot of these legitimate cases. If my house has stairs and you're in a wheelchair, its not really my choice to deny you service --

        • by guruevi ( 827432 )

          Couldn't the other reason for rejection, besides racism, be risk assessment? Black people pay more for car insurance as well, Asians pay the least amount purely for statistical reasons. If companies are allowed to make those 'choices' (simple algorithms really) simply based on credit scores and criminal records, why aren't individuals?

      • Ideally, with a competent and completely free market, the asshats will be filtered out by their competition.

        That's not the point or the job of the free market. It promotes profit making, healthy markets, and economic robustness. Capitalism is an economic system, not a social order, and it's amoral at best. So, it needs to be paired up with with civic infrastructure to help shape policy, regulate and tax trade, protect human rights and the environment, and prevent or punish fraud or other deceitful behavior.

        Stable and healthy economics can't exist in a political vacuum. Even the earliest civilizations had busi

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Libertarians might argue that we shouldn't do business with people who are treating others unfairly.

      Who is 'we'? Do you have a mouse in your pocket?

      Libertarians support the right for each individual to do business (or not) with anyone they choose.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Libertarians support the right for each individual to do business (or not) with anyone they choose.

        Which gives the majority the power to constructively kill you if nobody is willing to do business with you. There's a reason that "life" comes before "liberty" in the Declaration of Independence and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

    • Individual discretion is the only sane system, government has no authority to prevent individuals from discriminating nor should government be allowed to have that authority. Individual rights must extend to property rights and property is what we are talking about here.

      Any business is ran by individuals and has property, consequently government has no authority to take away individual rights and property rights and to oppress people because they are doing business in a way that government does not approve

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Individual rights must extend to property rights and property is what we are talking about here.

        Until those with property deny use of their property to you, causing you to get thrown in jail for violating the sit-lie ordinance and/or starve to death for lack of food and lack of farmland on which to grow food.

        The U.S. Constitution doesn't contain the phrase "property, liberty, or life". It contains "life, liberty, or property" twice.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Friday June 02, 2017 @07:40PM (#54539503)

    Most homes aren't handicap accessible. So I imagine hosts with houses with lots of stairs, etc. would have no choice but to turn away some handicapped people. Also, many people might fear that their home might even be dangerous for someone who's blind, deaf, etc. I used to live in a house that had a balcony with a low railing, for example. I sure wouldn't have wanted a blind person out there without someone to warn them.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      Looking closer at the article, it appears that it didn't. Here's one quote that stood out:

      Some hosts told guests in wheelchairs that they could come only if they had someone who could carry them up stairs.

      Well...yeah. The host probably wasn't trying to be an asshole there, he was just being honest about the fact that his house wasn't wheelchair accessible. Do the study's authors expect every Airbnb host to put in handicap ramps and lifts on their stairs before they rent their house? These are private residences, not hotels.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        I'll play the devils advocate here:

        These are private residences

        And some are investment properties, rented out through Airbnb as sources of income. Should they be made to comply with ADA regs the same way all other small businesses are?

        • Let's just stop being the devil and admit that ADA and all other similar regulations are impediment to individual rights. We are all born with the right to discriminate, then we discriminate in our daily lives and nobody bothers us. But god forbid should we decide to start a business and help some people we actually *can* help the government prevents us unless we take it upon ourselves not to discriminate against everybody else.

          This is complete nonsense, a person has the right to discriminate (if not, the

      • by taustin ( 171655 )

        Do the study's authors expect every Airbnb host to put in handicap ramps and lifts on their stairs before they rent their house?

        Hotels have to do exactly that. It's part of being in the hospitality business.

        But here's the real kicker: If Uber is any indication, if you rent out your house through AirBnB, and someone is injured, your homeowner's insurance won't cover it. And AirBnB's might not either, if it is determined that you rented it to someone who is disabled without making proper accommodations for their particular disability.

        But if they consider not renting an upstairs bedroom to someone in a wheelchair when you have no wheel

        • then the entire study is nothing but propaganda

          I think you need to explain how it's propaganda, unless you're actually arguing it's a good thing that some AirBNB hosts are both unable to cater to guests with disabilities. It seems a massive leap to look at a study that says a certain type of business has a major problem with catering to certain types of client, determining the reason why they don't, and then claiming that it's "propaganda" when, in fact, you've just re-enforced the thesis of the study (by

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Regardless of your personal preferred theory of social behavior, the reality is the law dictates fair access in the market and for community life itself. Hotel or home operating as a business are the same under the law. Airbnb is at fault for allowing listings to the public without enforcement of legal requirements.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I guess the point is that a hotel, a commercial operation, would be required by law to be accessible. Airbnb thinks it and the people who let through it should be exempt.

        • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

          Lots of people are exempt from ADA requirements. Pretty much anyone renting or subletting a house or apartment in the U.S. is already exempt from these requirements and has been since the ADA was passed. Only a relatively small minority of apartments (usually a limited number of units in large complexes) in this country are handicap accessible, along with a very small percentage of houses (usually made so at the expense of the owner).

          It was understood from the beginning that the ADA was meant for public acc

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Wow, I didn't realize that the ADA was that weak. In Europe anyone renting (we generally don't do subletting) has to make sure that the property is both safe (escape routes for fire, electrical standards etc.) and accessible.

            There are a few exemptions but not many. The basic principal is that if you do any type of business beyond the level of car boot sale you probably need to ensure everyone can access it, with a few exemptions where it really isn't practical.

      • Looking closer at the article, it appears that it didn't. Here's one quote that stood out:

        Some hosts told guests in wheelchairs that they could come only if they had someone who could carry them up stairs.

        Well...yeah. The host probably wasn't trying to be an asshole there, he was just being honest about the fact that his house wasn't wheelchair accessible. Do the study's authors expect every Airbnb host to put in handicap ramps and lifts on their stairs before they rent their house? These are private residences, not hotels.

        I agree, but... from the article:

        The study further found that hosts who advertised wheelchair accessible homes approved 80% of guests without a disability, but only 60% of travelers with spinal cord injuries, raising further questions about the potential biases of Airbnb users.

        It's one thing to say your place isn't wheelchair accessible. It's another to say it is, and then turn away people with wheelchairs.

      • Why should a hotel be required to put in wheelchair ramps any more than a house that's being rented out to customers? One law for everyone.

  • There is a group of dyed-in-the-wool gypsies that come through our area once in a while, who visit small businesses, and present them with suits for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) noncompliance. They operate with a complicit attorney, and they usually extort the offenders with a smallish monetary settlement.

    It's not malice. Discriminating against our disabled countrymen is no one's goal... (okay it's probably someone's goal, but that sick fucker had a clumsy babysitter) perhaps it's just the increas

    • There is a group of dyed-in-the-wool gypsies that come through our area once in a while, who visit small businesses, and present them with suits for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) noncompliance. They operate with a complicit attorney, and they usually extort the offenders with a smallish monetary settlement.

      The law was designed to act like that. The politicians didn't want to spend money to create an enforcement squad, so they wrote it in a way to make sure lawyers can get a profit from these lawsuits. It feels rather scummy but it is that way on purpose.

      • Smells like a byproduct of the predisposition of legislatures to be well represented by those with legal degrees.
        • Yeah, it's amazing how often laws are written in a way that somehow gives lawyers more work.
          • The explanation's simpler and less scummy: lawyers are private and pay for themselves. "Enforcement squads" are not, and require taxation. Politicians are very, very, afraid of doing anything that raises taxes, and have been since Reagan.

            If you look at the history of this, before Reagan it was extremely common to propose things like the law that created the EPA whereby a law was accompanied by a government department to enforce it. Post-Reagan that's virtually non-existent.

            • Politicians are very, very, afraid of doing anything that raises taxes, and have been since Reagan.

              Afraid of raising taxes, yes of course. But not afraid of spending money!! That goes for both parties.

  • A shocking new study from Rutgers shows that people are somewhat more likely to befriend or marry people of the same racial, regional, and socioeconomic background. "It's completely unacceptable to have this kind of discrimination in the 21st century," the highly paid academics said in a joint statement. "We urge Congress and the courts to end this now by creating an office of Equal Relationship Opportunity and imposing prohibitive fines for those whose friendships and significant romantic relationships do

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Trouble is, without those laws, discrimination would just return to being rampant and overt (rather than still fairly rampant but at least a bit hidden.) That's why the laws exist in the first place!

      I'm not saying that every single law is good or well thought-out, but assuming discrimination is no longer a problem and will continue to go away on its own without regulation is pretty naive. Both history and psychology suggest quite the opposite.

      • "Trouble is, without those laws, discrimination would just return to being rampant and overt (rather than still fairly rampant but at least a bit hidden.) "

        Good. That's honest.

        I (like many landlords) aren't going to rent to a black couple or Muslim couple deliberately. I've never had a black guy apply to work for me, but I almost certainly wouldn't hire them if they did. Since the outcome is the same - it's "fairly rampant", and the discrimination happens anyway, lets' just be honest about it.

        I've been o

        • I (like many landlords) aren't going to rent to a black couple or Muslim couple deliberately. I've never had a black guy apply to work for me, but I almost certainly wouldn't hire them if they did.

          You just said that if you had the opportunity you would commit FEDERAL crimes. Employment and Housing discrimination is something the Feds usually take pretty seriously. You get caught, you'll get fined, if there's a pattern of such behavior, it goes worse for you.

          don't be a bigot, especially since:

          I've been on the other side of the equation - people who didn't want to rent to associate with me because I was gay, or because I'm Mexican.

          You should know better.

      • by jensend ( 71114 )

        So what?

        Why do people think that overriding people's preferential associations is somehow an intrinsic moral good, enough so that it's sufficient justification for using the threat of imprisonment to force submission?

        In the absence of discrimination law, suppose one person wanted to open a hair salon which only does black women's hair and another person wants to open a barbershop only open to men with blue eyes. I think the former would be more likely to survive long term than the latter - a possibly useful

        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          Why do people think that overriding people's preferential associations is somehow an intrinsic moral good

          Most people don't. If you're a bigot then we're going to think you're a dick regardless of whether or not your prejudices are overridden -- you'll still find ways to express them.

          What we think is a moral imperative is reducing discrimination on a systematic level. But any social "system" is, necessarily, made up of people and thus the burden of not acting like a dick has to be placed on the people.

          The customers in question could have easily found others willing to take their money and give them the same services

          Assuming they live in a place large enough to have multiple wedding cake bakers, and that there's at least on

          • by jensend ( 71114 )

            What we think is a moral imperative is reducing discrimination on a systematic level.

            Again, there's no argument presented for why this is even at all moral, much less morally required. As you admit, the method tried for "reducing it on a systematic level" in the relevant sense (the private sphere) comes down, eventually, to forcing individuals to jail at gunpoint for exercising their freedom of association.

            When the barber declines to give me a haircut based on my eye color he has done me no favor but he has done me no wrong. That's true even if I live in a place where he's the only barber w

            • When the barber declines to give me a haircut based on my eye color he has done me no favor but he has done me no wrong. That's true even if I live in a place where he's the only barber within a thousand miles. My desire to have "an opportunity for a good haircut" does not give me a right to force him to cut my hair or to force him out of business.

              Ideally, if you're going for a consistent light-touch minarchist legal code, there'd also be no law against "practicing barbering without a license" and therefore no "only barber within a thousand miles".

        • The customers in question could have easily found others willing to take their money and give them the same services

          You're forgetting two things:

          1. Location. Depending on the location there might not BE another local photographer or baker.

          2. Local Culture. And even if there was, they might be of the same mindset.

          And why should the "mighty businessman" have all the power? What makes THEM more important.

          Unless some other factor changes valuations, economic discrimination is an unstable situation - the demand curve your business sees is higher if you are open to all customers, so businesses have an incentive not to discriminate, and if they ignore those incentives, they'll likely face competitors that don't.

          Not always, depending on local culture, because THAT is what happened.

          Discrimination in the 20th century South wasn't primarily a matter of individual choice. It was a matter of discriminatory public institutions and Jim Crow laws that mandated discrimination in the private sector.

          All those things existed because of the local CULTURE which IS a choice, One can choose to NOT be a bigoted asshole.

          • by jensend ( 71114 )

            The "mighty businessman" is an individual deciding what to do with his or her own time and labor. I have absolutely no right to force the barber to cut my hair contrary to his will. I have no right to have him jailed for declining to cut my hair. It's not that he's "more important," it's that it's his time and his effort. It doesn't matter whether any other barber feels differently. It doesn't matter if he's the only barber on the continent. I don't have any right to demand his services any more than I have

            • The "mighty businessman" is an individual deciding what to do with his or her own time and labor. I have absolutely no right to force the barber to cut my hair contrary to his will. I have no right to have him jailed for declining to cut my hair. It's not that he's "more important," it's that it's his time and his effort. It doesn't matter whether any other barber feels differently. It doesn't matter if he's the only barber on the continent. I don't have any right to demand his services any more than I have a right to enslave him.

              One significant difference is that laws requiring having short hair are not nearly as widespread as sit-lie laws [wikipedia.org] requiring having housing.

        • Unless some other factor changes valuations, economic discrimination is an unstable situation - the demand curve your business sees is higher if you are open to all customers, so businesses have an incentive not to discriminate, and if they ignore those incentives, they'll likely face competitors that don't.

          Say for every 100 people in a particular market, 20 are of an ethnic minority, 60 bigots of the ethnic majority who refuse to eat in the same room as a minority, and 20 neutral people of the ethnic majority. A restaurant admitting no minorities could sell meals to 80 people, the bigots and the neutrals, while a non-racist restaurant could sell meals to only 40 people, the minorities and the neutrals. Without regulation protecting minorities from a majority of bigots, whom would a rational restaurateur admit

          • by jensend ( 71114 )

            If consumer preferences for separation really are strong enough that those people really won't freely eat at an establishment that admits the minority, regardless of price, then yes, market forces aren't going to force them to eat together.

            But the question isn't one of a single food source in any remotely realistic scenario. Rather, it's a question of the competitive environment. Other things being equal, businesses will be most profitable by choosing to cater to whichever of the two separate groups is othe

            • by tepples ( 727027 )

              I think there are clearly cases where the government should be involved in providing public goods

              In your opinion, would "public goods" include being the seller of last resort of essential products and services to citizens who are victims of discrimination, as opposed to letting citizens die due to not being able to procure them because of discrimination?

  • Who could have known that spending a few decades suing people left, right and center would make the rest of the people hesitant to embrace your group?

  • That's right, mom and pop services replacing corporate, boring, but standard and guaranteed level of service such as taxis and hotels.

    We all learned already about the ugly side of guerilla taxi and we keep learning about the same ugly side of guerrilla hotels.

    I wonder if this could be fixed by disassociating the platform from hosts.

    Abnb is not a hotel, it's just a software used by many shady private dwellings to score some side cash on tourists.

  • People lend their appartments, people decide to whom. People may be biased or racist. People are nevertheless allowed to decide whom to lend their appartments and other stuff.
    So what?
    And why is it a problem of AIRBNB's business model?

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