Accomable, which opened its U.S. office this month, finds accessible hotel rooms and rentals for disabled travelers.
Like most travelers fresh off a 10-hour international flight, Srin Madipalli landed exhausted and ready to head to his hotel. Madipalli, a wheelchair user, had noted on the reservation that he needed an adapted room and called twice to confirm it. But on arrival, he found the room was not wheelchair-friendly—there was a step into the bathroom.
“The staff at the front desk were very friendly and apologetic,” he told Condé Nast Traveler.“They did everything they could to find me somewhere else to stay, and moved me to another hotel. But it was really tiring and frustrating after a long flight.”
It’s not the first time Madipalli, an entrepreneur, has been assigned an “adapted” room that he’s unable to use, nor the first time he’s faced difficulties as a disabled traveler: In the last few years, Madipalli has dealt with un-adapted “accessible” hotel rooms, had his $25,000 wheelchair broken by an airline in Sydney, and was even stranded in the MGM Grand Las Vegas when his carer got arrested during what should have been a quick cigarette break. On an airplane, it is not possible for travelers to stay in their wheelchairs, which means they have to be lifted several times. Yet even those regular setbacks haven’t curbed his desire to travel—and now he wants to make it easier for others in his situation.
“Potential difficulties can put disabled people off traveling,” says Madipalli, who was recently in Austin to open the U.S. office of Accomable, the website he set up last year to match disabled travelers with truly adapted rooms across the globe. “We’re trying to take part of the risk away, and give our users the confidence to book.” A blend of a hotel booking site and Airbnb, Accomable lists disabled-friendly accommodation of all kinds, from hotel rooms and self-catering villas to yurts and even an accessible canal boat in North London. Every listing has to back up an access claim with pictures, and the site is also piloting a system where videos depicting access can be uploaded.
The end goal for Accomable is to plan customers’ entire trips—from flights and tours to wheelchair hire and insurance—but help with accommodation seemed the biggest need, says Madipalli. And while Accomable has yet to launch its U.S. portfolio of rentals, things are expected to change quickly: In June 2015, Madipalli and co-founder Martyn Sibley launched the UK site with just 30 listings; nine months later, they have more than 450 listings in 36 countries (mainly Europe) listed. Even better? Madipalli is in talks with two giants of the travel industry—Intercontinental Hotel Group and villa site HomeAway— about potential partnerships. By the end of the year, Madipalli predicts up to 5,000 listings.
“We’re trying to fundamentally open up travel to millions of people around the world,” he says, with plans to ultimately arrange trips across all seven continents for travelers with disabilities and also the elderly—a booming section of the market, the former is estimated to be worth $19.2 billion. “Travel has opened up my horizons, allowing me to experience other cultures and discover opportunities in many aspects of my life. I’d love to look back on this in 30 years time and say that adapted travel used to be such a palaver, but Accomable solved it. If we could achieve that, it’d be really cool.”
Source: Conde Nast Traveler