Josh Basil had just completed his freshman year as a college tennis player at Skidmore College when he ventured into the shallow waters of Bethany Beach, Delaware, boogie board in hand.
The next thing he knew was that he was floating in the Atlantic, motionless. A wave had slammed its head into the bottom of the ocean, leaving him paralyzed below the shoulders. Now a C4-5 quadriplegic, Basile needs an electric wheelchair and assistive technology to live life to the fullest.
“Sport was my life before my injury,” said Basile Sports handle. “I was a college tennis player. I practiced every sport imaginable before my injury.
Knowing that he “had to find a way back” after his injury, he developed a set of devices that allow golfers with disabilities to play a specialized version of the sport, called Slingshot Golfwhich values precision and advances calculations over raw physicality.
“I have a 2 handicap using the different devices,” Basile said. “I feel like it’s a live video game to me because there’s very little human error.”
When he’s not hitting the links, Basil sometimes likes to bet on sports, visiting various physical sportsbooks in Las Vegas and his home state of Maryland, among other places.
“For the most part, they do a pretty good job of making floors accessible,” he said of retail books. “They’re doing a great job in Maryland. I love Vegas.
A minor gripe: “It can get quite noisy and I can’t get close enough to have a good conversation.”
But that’s a minor inconvenience compared to the challenges Basile faces when trying to use online sports betting to place his bets.
“Being paralyzed below my shoulders, I rely heavily on technology to access the world,” he explained. “I use a on screen keyboard. DraftKings, I can’t access their menus. They didn’t build their coding properly for someone using an on-screen keyboard to navigate their site. It sucks to be a bit stuck on a homepage and not be able to access drop-down menus. I find this on other websites all the time.
Basil also noted that he cannot use voice commands to enter critical personal information, such as a credit card or bank account number.
“I have to wait for a friend or family member to type my response then, which is never fun,” he said.
The whole internet could improve
To be fair, Basil doesn’t single out DraftKings. His critique could apply to virtually all online sports betting – and the internet in general.
“Less than 3% of websites actually meet accessibility guidelines,” Basile said.
The US Department of Justice recently issued directives on the applicability of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to government entities or businesses open to the public. Basile, who is a lawyer, could pursue a legal approach to force sports betting to become more disability-friendly. But he says he “would never go that route”.
On the contrary, Basile is more interested in helping online sportsbooks and other websites voluntarily become more accessible through a pair of tools offered by his employer, accessible.
Specifically, businesses can audit their websites to assess their accessibility for people with disabilities through a free service called accessScan. Or an operator can pay for a premium service, accessWidgetwhich, as Basile explains, “scans a website every 24 hours and finds all the areas where it’s not performing well, then creates a layered approach through AI technology to bring accessibility to that website”.
For example, a business can learn how to better tailor its online experience to people living with epilepsy, ADHD, or visual and hearing impairments.
“If there are flashing, flickering lights on a site, which a lot of sportsbooks have, it can trigger an epileptic event,” Basile noted. “People with disabilities are the most brand-loyal community because we don’t have as many places to choose from. When we are taken care of, we come back again and again as repeat customers.”
To that end, Basil noted, “Last year alone, people with disabilities had over $500 billion in purchasing power. That’s a lot of dollars on the table for not being welcoming. I like to be entertained. I like to have the same experience as everyone else, so please accommodate me so I can make that next bet and have that next chance to have fun.
Legal responsibility and “the right thing to do”
Sports handle contacted half a dozen sportsbooks to see what, if anything, they had done to make their online experience more accessible to people with disabilities. The SuperBook was one of two to respond, with Gordon Prouty, Vice President of Public Relations and Community Affairs, saying: “Gaming regulations and compliance guidelines are constantly evolving, and as always, we continue to monitor them. and make any necessary adjustments.”
DraftKings also responded by sharing a link to a page on its website that discusses accessibility – particularly for people who are visually or hearing impaired.
“We strive to provide text-based alternatives, such as voice-over or text-to-speech, to assist users who cannot fully experience our products due to visual impairments,” reads the page, which also provides a email address to users. accessibility-specific feedback.
Despite the recent guidance from the DOJ, it is not entirely clear to which online entities the ADA applies.
“The threshold issue on the ADA, the courts have been split on whether or not pure online businesses are subject to the ADA,” explained Jean Magliery, a commercial litigation partner at the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, which handles complaints of accessibility discrimination. “In 2012, the DOJ came up with a rule, and then they took it away. And what happened was that a lot of private plaintiffs kind of filled the void by filing lawsuits. That’s how that we really have some sort of advanced online accessibility.
“The question the courts wrestle with is what is public accommodation. The 9th Circuit has stated that you must be connected to physical public accommodation. If you are Domino’s Pizza, the application must be accessible because someone could enter your store.
However, he added, “Our trial court here in New York, the Southern District, has thrown that out. They said if it’s like a retail store, if it’s like a travel agency, if it’s like a library, then it has to be accessible too. Because you could be sued wherever you do business, the best approach is to be compliant.
“Smart money is all about making your website and app accessible, because there’s definitely exposure to potential liability if you don’t. And even if you don’t [exposure to liability], it’s good for your customers and expands your customer base. Most companies would agree that this is the right thing to do.