Accessibility Options for Hosts

At the suggestion of @KKC, I thought I might start an accessibility thread. I’m a therapist and this is one of my speciality areas that I practice in and a service that I provide in people’s homes (mostly for the elderly but others as well). I’m thinking it’s something I can add to when I get time and I am happy to answer questions on specific situations as well for individuals (actually, specific situations are ideal, they are “real life”). It may be an interesting discussion as well as there is no end to the variation of homes/situations/listings among us all.

Not all hosts are going to be interested in making their listings accessible and that’s okay too (subtitled: “Why I Don’t List My Hand-held Shower Head as an Amenity”). There are also reasons not to include accessibility features or to list them. My own situation is (ironic, for sure :slight_smile: is a great example. When I thought about having an Airbnb my ideal was to really deck it out and make it ultra-accessible. I was dreaming big: transfer-lifts and all! I pictured quad-rugby teams mapping my place out for their next road games, hospitals with my card on the discharge desk, droves of dependent grandmas joining their families for vacation again!

However, I ended up with a nightmare of an old house in an old city with rigid ideas and strict front of house alteration permits, e.g. impossible to do a ramp :flushed: And even if I invested in an exterior mechanical lift to get people up the 7 stairs to the first floor, the inside of the house is a minefield of safety issues for most disabilities. So, I have hand-held shower heads but I don’t tick the box under “Accessibility Features” because I don’t want anyone to think that my house is Accessible just because they see “Accessiblity Features” pop-up. It could be a really bad situation for a guest who doesn’t read the whole thing, so I leave it out.

Though we use the word “accessibility” which does of course mean providing “access” (by way of ramps, low thresholds for showers, wide doorways for wheelchairs, etc), the majority of “accessibility” is actually making something safe to access. So, even if you can’t or don’t want to make your listing accessible for wheelchairs, you can make it accessible for a lot of other people by making it safe. Grab bars are one of the best examples of this and a good place to start. Some places have programs that will install for free or even provide them for free. It’s worth looking into your Elder Councils and stuff. I’m an ardent researcher if you want any help with that, let me know :slight_smile:


Excellent information. Thanks, @JJD!

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The information you gave in the other thread was fantastic. (That’s what this forum should be for to me anyway :slight_smile: )

It’s a fascinating subject. I know that I can never make either of our rentals wheelchair friendly because one has stairs and the other has a step up to the door and as the building was erected in 1949, even the exterior doors aren’t wide enough to allow access for a modern-day wheelchair.

I tend to think ‘wheelchair’ when someone mentions accessibility but I guess that there are non wheelchair uses who still need accessible places of some sort?


I’ve had friends who have had surgery on knees and toes in the last year who were using crutches and knee cycle respectively. Even for someone using nothing but being ill, like the guest I had with cancer, just having only a small step up into the room, a handheld shower with a bench to sit on, and a short walk from auto to room was enough.

Standard width of a power wheelchair is 25". Standard wheelchair is wider but they are designed to fit through a 32" door.

My suite is accessible as it was originally built for family member who used an electric wheelchair. It’s not totally (US) ADA compliant, more universal design. I’ve had a handful of wheelchair users over the years, less than I expected. I’ve come to the conclusion that if a traveler has a mobility disability, they can take away a LOT of uncertainty by booking in an accessible hotel room that must meet regulatory requirements. Travel is challenging enough already. We had some awful experiences with our family member in Airbnbs that were self-certified as “accessible” by poorly informed hosts. It’s better now; Airbnb has upped their game since acquiring Accomable, in terms of requiring lots more info and photos.


We had a guest a couple of years ago who used a wheelchair but she could get around with crutches inside the apartment so it was never put to the test but the doors (I think) were slightly too small for the chair. This was a downstairs apartment.

I was pretty scared before she arrived, moving things and making pathways throughout the apartment but she was fine. In fact, because she was a young woman I’d gone into mum-mode - I must have been very annoying. :slight_smile:

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@JJD Oh, boy, oh, boy, I don’t know how I missed this. This is right where I am, at the moment. I don’t intend to declare my place ADA compliant, but I have tried to do as much research as possible to make whatever we have done helpful and safe. The apartment is ready (I’ve been testing it with the transport chair, which is an “amenity”). We just put in a chair lift. My final step is a ramp (my plans for a vertical platform lift fell thru). I get inquiries about once a month whether my place is accessible. I have searched; other than hotels and one Airbnb in NC, I think there must not be many choices for accessible places for a large group, with kids and a pet, near the beach in the Hampton Roads, VA area. I’ll add that we’re also using our place as a ministry retreat for soldiers & others with PTSD & TBI, so an added reason for the accessibility options. I don’t know what to ask you, though.

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It was posted less than 24 hours ago. JJD has been so helpful to me as I have dealt with a friend who suddenly became paralyzed during the last two months and in a nursing home.

What does that entail? Does it mean you rent multiple rooms to different groups? Or that when the entire home is rented by guests no retreats are scheduled?

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Hey guys, I am having a really hectic day, but want to address the wheelchair/doorways/entrance issue next. Getting in and out is the most important thing and it’s not as cut-and-dry as it sounds. Spoiler alert: homes aren’t covered by the ADA and it is rare that homes have ADA measurements but it’s not rare that people use wheelchairs in homes. I’ve started something and will finish tonight! (Didn’t want to leave you hanging :wink: )

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@KKC at this point what happens is that I schedule blocks of time just like I would a direct booking, but it is at no charge. I raised my rates a little bit for that reason. We are sort of financing the PTSD program via the vacation rental business. I am taking bookings through OTAs and/or veteran’s/military groups as they come in, first come first served, for now. Anybody that books gets the whole place (3 BR, 2 Bath, 2700 sq ft). I had a single soldier that was an abuse victim, with her two little dogs, over the holidays. She had the place to herself, but she really needed to be alone. Here’s the thing, we bought the place not actually realizing it would be an income producing property. When we saw the lower level, we knew we had to do something meaningful with it.


Okay, this is really long and still only a jumping-off point but I am hoping it provides a perspective and a decent overview of wheelchair accessibility options/issues for an Airbnb.

Wheelchairs and Entrances:

There is actually quite a lot of grey area here. In fact, most of it is grey area. The ADA requirements are quite generous as they are meant to accommodate the almost-everyone of the public and they only apply to businesses/public areas, not residential housing. It would still be extremely rare for residential spaces to be ADA compliant. It is actually very unfortunate, and not particularly helpful, that Airbnb is using ADA standards for their Accessibility section. It seems you can only say that it meets ADA standards or that it doesn’t. It would be most helpful if each listing could say yes or no and then show their entrance and make notes, show their doorways and note the measurements, etc. This would even be helpful to people who need something more than ADA minimums. But, it is what it is, so just ranting :slight_smile:

What I am saying is that your home can be accessible for a lot of people without being ADA compliant. Other than people who live in some kind of facility or specialized housing, most people who use wheelchairs live in regular homes like ours, particularly as far as doorways go. Most wheelchairs will fit through a 30 in doorway, many will fit through smaller doorways. Most people in wheelchairs know what width of doorway they need. If they don’t know (usually the elderly who have recently started using a wheelchair), they can find out by measuring the doorways they are successfully accessing at home.

One reason for this is that the ADA standard of 32” is to allow a person to independently access the doorway, so it includes room for their arms/elbows while propelling as well as any needed slight angle (e.g. not a straight on entry, like a bathroom off a hallway). So, obviously, if the person has someone with them (which is common for traveling), the wheelchair can be pushed through a much smaller doorway by the 2nd person (while the person in the wheelchair keeps their arms in).

The other reason for this is that the most common wheelchair is actually, on average, an 18” seat, which actually only needs a 27” doorway. The common W/C size can obviously vary, e.g. bigger people need bigger chairs. Some adults use chairs as small as 14” seat (which fits through a 23” doorway); however, there are people in 22” and even 24” chairs but I am confident that these don’t likely make up much of the traveling public (you’ll have to trust me on this ,)

The other element is that there are different types of wheelchair users. You may be able to accommodate some W/C users but not others and that will mostly have to do with the other accessibility features you can offer and whether or not they are traveling alone:

There are people who only need the wheelchair only for distance, because of respiratory/endurance/coordination issues and have no trouble navigating short distances inside a home (e.g. from the doorway to the bed or toilet). These folks can also navigate a couple of stairs at the entrance (but a flight of stairs wouldn’t work). Sometimes they use a walker/cane/crutches inside the home (as @jaquo mentioned), or not. They are likely traveling with others. They will need to sit down for showering/bathing. If your shower stall has a seat in it or if you are willing to provide a removable seat for your shower or tub and there is at least one grab bar, you could accommodate these folks with any size doorways as long as you have no more than about 3-steps to enter (and a handrail for some).

There are young, spry, athletic users who are in ‘sporty chairs’ which are very lightweight and small-framed and low to the ground. These are generally people with spinal cord injuries who use these chairs like legs and are very independent. They know exactly what measurements and access they need (and it will be much less than you think). A step or two to enter (even more for some) won’t get in their way at all. They “wheelie” up steps and over curbs routinely. They also go down steps in their chairs just fine. Many play sports in their W/Cs. They travel and they travel alone and independently. You can usually accommodate this type of W/C traveler with 27” doorways (for the rare one that needs more, they will know and not book as long as you can give them the correct information), depending on the layout of the rooms. They will need grab bars at the toilet and in the shower and will require grab bars and a seat for the shower. A low or average height bed will be preferable. If they are arriving by car, they will need a parking space where one door can be opened all of the way - on the street is okay. A floor plan of your space will help these folks a ton.

There are people who are in W/C because they no longer walk (or don’t walk safely). This might be who we generally think of when we think of W/C users - gramps after a stroke, auntie with an awful disease, etc. This is a big varied grab-bag of wheelchair users and they may be traveling but will be traveling with others. Since they are traveling with others, the others can push their W/C through the doorways for them - so they don’t need 32” because they don’t need to self-propel through the doorway. Many of these users are not self-propelling anyway and may even be in a “companion chair” or “transport chair” (as @momovich mentioned) which has a smaller width and no way to self-propel (no big wheels on the side) anyway. Even people who use a wider chair at home often travel in these smaller chairs that require being pushed. These small companion/transport chairs fit through any doorway that is not in a hobbit house. However, this group of travelers will require grab bars at the toilet and the shower and a place to sit in the shower. They will need an average height bed (not on the ground and not princess-high). If your doorways are under 30”, you can accommodate many of these folks by providing a companion/transport chair inside the home. These can be bought used at Salvation Army, garage sales, etc and can be found sometimes for free from churches, elder councils, etc. These folks do require a flat, very low or ramped entry into the home. Steps are a deal-breaker for these users with the exception of a low 1/2 step at the entry. Their companion can safely and routinely get the W/C over a bit of a raised entry (but less than a full step).

And then there are people with severe disabilities in very complex specialized wheelchairs. They usually have a tilt and a recline and leg rests and head rests and other extensive accessories on their wheelchair. They need a lot of room to turn around and to move in the space. It is highly unlikely that you can accommodate these folks in your home as they will need the full ADA minimums and don’t have the option of being in a different type of chair. If they are using Airbnb they are only looking for places that are fully ADA compliant.

TL; DR: If you’d like to be more accommodating of people who use wheelchairs, it is unlikely your home will meet ADA compliance as homes are not subject to the ADA so most homes don’t; however, there are options. It may be as simple as some grab bars, a floor plan with basic measurements, a shower seat and a little bit of extra communication. And don’t forget you can sometimes gain several inches in a doorway by changing hardware or reversing the swing (or replacing with a sliding barn door type door if you’re up for it). Airbnb’s system does not really support us in truly being accommodating as their listing tools only allow for ADA full compliance or not but if you’re able and willing to do a few other things it might be worth noting in your listing that you are interested in being accommodating and can provide a floor plan and/or measurement information/pictures and definitely tick-off the accessibility features you do meet (e.g. well lit entrance, grab bars, shower head, etc).


Something that would be very helpful for you to offer (or even include in your listing photos) to the people who inquire about accessibility is a floor plan with basic room and doorway measurements. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be pencil and paper as long as it has correct measurements. When we talk about doorway width being accessible or not, the measurement is really based on being able to approach the doorway straight-on. If it’s required to turn in a small space (like a hallway), the doorway may need to be a bit wider, so having the floor plan lets a user know if they will be able to access the bathroom, for example.

The other measurement that is really important is the space in the bathroom. There is no need to be able to turn the W/C around in the bathroom, W/C users will back out but they need to know if they can fit between the sink and tub to get to the toilet, for example. A lot of people actually park the W/C at the doorway of the bathroom and then walk (sometimes with a walker) to the toilet anyway so, for a lot of folks, it won’t be an issue anyway - but they may want to know the distance from the doorway to the toilet.


This is all so very helpful. I have had a gentleman walk through and give me a cursory assessment as to ADA requirements. My place already has wide hallways and doors, and I’ve actually got a floor plan drawn up. I do hope to post it, and photos with measurements. The thing that’s holding me up is the ramp. I have a pitched driveway plus two steps to the entry, 16" high. It makes for a very expensive ramp and my funding source fell through. I’m looking at all my options. Thank you so much for the feedback. I’ve lost a lot of sleep over doorway widths.


I assume you are looking at grant writing? Government support for “faith based initiatives” will probably never be higher, have you looked into that?

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Welllllll, yes (she said with fear and trembling. Or is it just loathing of administrivia?) I’m slogging through applications and processes. I was just going to self-fund everything because I don’t like to answer to authority (i. e. follow rules) but I know that’s just being silly. It will happen, just not as quickly as I’d hoped.

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