Mason Ameri, Sean Rogers, Lisa Schur, and Douglas Kruse. “No Room at the Inn? Disability Access in the New Sharing Economy,” Academy of Management Discoveries, August 2020, 6(2): 176-205. https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/amd.2018.0054
The rise of Internet-based service platforms may perpetuate and possibly increase social exclusion of people with disabilities. The expansion of such services potentially creates a new realm of unregulated activity that blurs the boundaries between public and private space and may undermine the principle of equal access to goods and services. We investigate access for people with disabilities to Airbnb rentals using a randomized field experiment of 3,847 lodging requests. We find that hosts were less likely to preapprove requests from travelers with blindness, cerebral palsy, dwarfism, or spinal cord injury than to approve travelers without disabilities. The differences are only partially attenuated among hosts advertised as “wheelchair accessible,” and the host responses did not vary significantly by whether the response was made before or after Airbnb required all users to agree to a new nondiscrimination policy. A supplementary MTurk survey of hosts found that both physical accessibility concerns and negative attitudes play independent roles in the lower likelihood of preapprovals for travelers with disabilities, supporting both taste-based and social models of discrimination. Our findings raise questions about the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which applies to hotels but not to most Airbnb hosts. The platform economy appears to create substantial challenges in ensuring equal access for people with disabilities. The findings can inform theoretical development on discrimination, boundaries of the firm, and economic regulation of organizations.