'Disabled Airbnb' bought by Airbnb

Srin MadipalliImage copyright Srin Madipalli Image caption Srin Madipalli says struggling to cope with inappropriate accommodation was "humiliating and embarrassing"

A London firm sparked by two disabled people's frustration at hotels' inaccurate information on accessibility has been bought by Airbnb.

Accomable was founded by two friends with spinal muscular atrophy in 2015.

Former corporate lawyer Srin Madipalli came up with the idea after he quit his job to travel the world and found it difficult to find appropriate hotels.

"You'd turn up to places and the shower was tiny or there was a step to get in.It's just really humiliating," he says.

He persuaded childhood friend Martyn Sibley to join him, and together they created a website aimed at making it easier for disabled people to travel.

Like Airbnb, home owners are able to rent out rooms or entire properties via the website which only shows places which have step-free access and detailed information on accessibility adaptations.

'We can do more'

Airbnb said[1] Accomable would now be wound down over the next few months, with the listings incorporated into its own website,

It said that the firm's founders and most of its seven-person staff would stay on and help Airbnb improve the accuracy of its accessibility listings.

"While we have rules that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and an Open Doors policy that helps ensure everyone can find a place to stay, it's clear that we can do more to effectively serve people with disabilities," Airbnb said.

The rental website said it was already working on new "accessibility needs" checklists for hosts.

Image caption Most of Accomable's staff will now move to work for Airbnb

Airbnb didn't say how much it had paid for Accomable, but Mr Madipalli said the sale would enable it to finally meet customers' demands.

He said up until now the website had not had enough cash or staff, meaning it could only fulfil about 5 to 10% of booking requests.

"We see the need every day, which is why we wanted to team up with a bigger player," Mr Madipalli said.

And the other change, Mr Madipalli said was that he would now start using Airbnb himself.

Up until now the lack of wheelchair-accessible rentals had stopped him.

"But I look forward to trying it out," he says....

References

  1. ^ Airbnb said (press.atairbnb.com)

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Zimbabwe yearns for change of any kind

Watermelons are piled high on a cart, with few cut slices on display on top, as the seller sits on the cart's arms amid a busy marketplaceImage copyright Getty Images Image caption A man sells watermelon in the capital a day after the military moved against Mr Mugabe

Driving around Zimbabwe, one can hardly tell the country is in the middle of the biggest political crisis since independence.

In one town, a man in his 20s invites me to his shop and tries to convince me to buy a silver necklace."It costs twenty dollars," he says."But for you I can make that fifteen."

He offers the discount rather half-heartedly."You see, people don't want to spend money on thing like these;the economy is really doing badly."

The once-promising African country has sunk into an economic abyss.

The government was forced to abolish the country's currency in 2009 because of hyperinflation, and introduced more stable foreign currencies such as the US dollar.

Inflation peaked at 79.6 billion percent in mid-November 2008.

On Wednesday this week, the government published the latest inflation rate showing a 2.24% year-on-year rise for the month of October.Some economists, however, say the new figures are a gross underestimate.

It's no surprise then that many Zimbabweans almost instantly warmed to the military's move to take control of the country, and confine President Robert Mugabe to his official residence.

"The military has done a good thing," says one bookseller."They will ensure we get a transitional government."

He is firmly convinced that Mr Mugabe's 37-year rule is coming to an end.

There has been a sudden change of tone in the country, and the sense is that many Zimbabweans have been yearning for change.

Any change, it seems, would do.

At the market, traders hope this means their fortunes will change.Many of them passively watch shoppers walk past their shops, resigned to the idea that most people are struggling to make ends meet.

So when a middle-aged tourist buys souvenirs, the rest of the traders suddenly swarm around her as they invite her to view their merchandise.She thanks them, but politely declines the invitation and walks away.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Traders working in a troubled economy hope that change will improve their fortunes

The traders believe their economic situation will improve once Mr Mugabe's rule ends.But there is still political uncertainty surrounding the succession.

The once-vibrant opposition has begun to speak out, and the former Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, is now back in the country.He has demanded that President Mugabe steps down.

What started as a split within the ruling Zanu-PF party could well develop into a broader crisis with politicians from across the divide angling to take over from Mr Mugabe.

But the president still commands a lot of respect as an independence icon.

The same respect does not seem to be extended to his wife, Grace, who was thought to be his preferred successor.Her openly extravagant lifestyle has been widely criticised.

What is clear is that the events of this week have dented - if not ended - any chances she had of succeeding her husband.

In the midst of political uncertainty, Zimbabweans remain hopeful.Change is coming, in whatever form....

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Price of Football 2017: Young fans 'need more help' - Mark Hughes

Home ground v home comforts - how young fans watch football

Young fans need "more help" from clubs to be able to go to matches, says Stoke City boss Mark Hughes.

The BBC's annual Price of Football study found that 82% of 18 to 24 year olds said the cost of tickets was an obstacle to them going to more games.

"It's probably an area that needs to be looked at," Hughes said.

Asked if clubs risked losing a generation of fans, he added:"Money is tight, everyone understands that.Maybe they need a little more help."

Hughes said many clubs place "high importance" on appealing to young supporters, citing Stoke's 'City 7s scheme' which sees the club work with seven year olds at 215 local schools.

On 18 to 24 year olds, he added:"It's only circumstances that are not allowing them to see as much football live as as everybody would like.You would like to think that at that stage they've got their team and they are emotionally involved."

What can I expect to get from my match-day experience?- The price of football

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger agreed that it is tough for young fans to attend Premier League football.

"Can you afford to go when you are young?That is not always easy," he said.

"People's lifestyles are a bit different, they play less sport and play more on computers."

The BBC's annual study found 135 clubs out of 190 in England, Scotland and Wales offer reduced prices for teenagers and young adults - separate from any student concessions - but 55% of the fans polled said they had stopped going completely or go to fewer games because it was too expensive.

Young adult fans can save, on average, £146.94 on season tickets in the English Premier League and Football League, while in the top four divisions in Scotland the average saving on a season ticket is £143.66.

The Premier League said:"Clubs engage with their fans in many ways and hugely appreciate their loyal and passionate support.

"For young fans specifically, all clubs offer concession prices, including discounted junior season tickets."

An away game or save for a holiday?

Following the publication of the Price of Football study on Wednesday, hundreds of fans have shared their thoughts on the issue with BBC Sport.

Exeter City supporter Ryan Ward, 22, is one of the young fans who is struggling to keep up with modern prices:"Although I support a League Two side, I can often find it difficult to find the money to go to a game.Not only do you have the cost of a match ticket but you have the cost of travel, food and drink.It can quickly turn into a £40 or £50 day out."

Ryan Ward recommends the German model:"Another reason young people don't buy tickets is that you have to purchase a membership just to buy a ticket which can be roughly £25.Clubs need to follow Germany, where it is £20 a ticket, you can stand in the terrace, and pop up bars outside the ground are run by fans.The atmosphere is a lot better also."

Meanwhile, Chelsea fan Christopher Arkwright, 24, says that a football match isn't a "worthwhile investment" when you're saving for a house:"Me and my partner are trying to save up for a mortgage.How could I ever convince her that £70 to watch a game that usually I can watch at the pub for £10 (food and drink cost) is a worthwhile investment?And that's just the home games.

"I go to one away day near my birthday a year and the cost of it all is expensive," says Newcastle fan Rahul Kohli."Including transport, you're looking at £100 or more.Most of my mates would rather go to a rave or save it for a holiday or festival and I cannot say I blame them."

Liverpool sell a ticket for £9 to 500 supporters with an L postcode for domestic matches

What about older fans?

It's not just young adults who feel they are being priced out of the game.

Stephen Hartley says that even with pensioner discounts, prices at football grounds can be "prohibitive", also pointing out that "several Premier clubs insist on a costly membership even before you are allowed to purchase a ticket for a game".

Sheffield Wednesday fan Mark Crossley says he has not been able to access pension discounts:"I took retirement from teaching at age 60.This meant a big drop in income.However, my club only gives discounts to over-65s and therefore I can't afford to attend.Other clubs give discounts to over-60s.I have proof I am a pensioner but the rigorous cut off of 65 is stopping SWFC having a devout follower attend."

Some older football fans, on the other hand, still feel very much included by their clubs.

Robert, a Celtic fan, takes his eight-year-old grandson to home games:"His season ticket costs £50 and it stays at that price until he's 15.My season ticket for a pensioner is £300.We get 21 home games for this.These prices make it very affordable for us and it's looking after the future support as the young ones grow up with the buzz of going to live games.Even for the League Cup final next week organised by the SFA, our tickets are £15 each, which is amazing."

Huddersfield Town fan and season ticket holder Stephen Ripley says that prices at the John Smith's stadium reflect the club's family values:"I have lived away from the town due to my career for over 40 years and it is the football that helps me retain the connection with where I was born.We are a family club and prices reflect this with a great spread of ages and genders attending matches."

A wider issue?

Many fans pointed to the challenging wider context of supporting their team.

Marcus in London argues that "prices of trains is the biggest issue" with attending live games, whilst Robert in Oxford says that the rising cost of living is the main reason he does not watch football anymore.He said:"I have a lot less disposable income and having to work 45-60 hours a week just to get by."

Ian agrees:"My 21-year-old son doesn't come to as many games as he and his friends can't afford it - mainly due to zero-hour contracts.Yes, football is out of reach for a lot of people, but it is part of a bigger problem of zero-hours contracts, rising rents/house prices and student fees/debt." ...

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US senator Al Franken apologises for grope caught on camera

Franken gropes the accuser while smilingImage copyright KABC Image caption Franken said the photo "was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't"

US Senator Al Franken has responded to a woman's allegations that he groped her as she slept and "forcibly" kissed her in a rehearsal for a comedy skit.

Leeann Tweeden says the two incidents happened in December 2006 on a tour to entertain US troops overseas, before Mr Franken entered politics.

The radio host wrote that the former comic "aggressively" kissed her while saying they had to rehearse a scene.

Mr Franken, a former Saturday Night Live writer, apologised for the grope.

Image copyright DVIDS Image caption Pentagon photos of the 2006 Hope &Freedom Tour in Kuwait show the two performing a skit

But the Minnesota Democrat said he has a different recollection of the kiss.

"I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," he said in a statement.

"As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't.I shouldn't have done it."

Mr Franken issued a second, longer statement less than two hours later after a ferocious backlash from critics who accused him of a non-apology and demanded his resignation.

In an article for KABC[2], a Los Angeles radio station where Ms Tweedon now works, she recalled feeling victimised by Mr Franken during her ninth USO tour of the Middle East.

Image copyright DVIDS Image caption Ms Tweeden signs autographs at her 2007 tour

"When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a 'kiss'," she said.

"I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd."

On the day of the performance, she said he was insistent they rehearse the skit.

But when the moment came he "put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth".

"You knew exactly what you were doing.You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed," she wrote.

End of Twitter post by @clairecmc

The Democratic leader of the Senate called for the chamber's Ethics Committee to investigate the Franken incidents.

Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement:"Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated."

Mr Franken said later that he would "gladly cooperate" with an ethics investigation.

In his second statement, he said of the photo:"I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself.It isn't funny.It's completely inappropriate.

"It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture."

But he still begged to differ on her portrayal of him forcing his tongue down her mouth.

"While I don't remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does," he said, "I understand why we need to listen to and believe women's experiences."

As a senator for liberal-leaning Minnesota, Mr Franken has cultivated an image for himself as a vocal champion of women's issues, from sexual assault to abortion rights and equal pay.

End of Twitter post by @alfranken

US President Donald Trump did not respond to reporters during a visit on Capitol Hill when asked if Mr Franken should resign.

Ms Tweeden said she was inspired to come forward more than a decade later after California congresswoman Jackie Speier was interviewed on her morning radio programme.

Mrs Speier told about being sexually assaulted as a young congressional aide in Washington.

She also claimed to know two currently serving members of Congress who "have engaged in sexual harassment", though she did not name them....

References

  1. ^ US House requires anti-harassment training (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ In an article for KABC (www.kabc.com)
  3. ^ Skip Twitter post by @clairecmc (www.bbc.co.uk)
  4. ^ November 16, 2017 (twitter.com)
  5. ^ Skip Twitter post by @alfranken (www.bbc.co.uk)
  6. ^ March 7, 2014 (twitter.com)

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