Presenter: Liz Certa
Watch the recording of “Digital Accessibility for Compulsive Gamblers.”
Compulsive Gambling is a DSM-recognized behavior disorder that impacts 1% of U.S. adults. An additional 2-3% of American adults are “problem gamblers,” which means they do not meet all criteria for a diagnosis of a gambling disorder but do meet some criteria and experience some level of hardship due to their gambling behavior. With seventy-five percent of internet gamblers meeting the criteria for problem gamblers, it is long past time the w3c considered accommodations for this subset of disabled persons.
There are two potential fronts for internet accommodations for problem and compulsive gamblers; the first is banks, specifically their online client-facing portals. Banks in the United Kingdom like Monzo and Starling tried out features like putting a twenty four hour hold on fees paid to vendors with a gambling merchant category code, and low maximums on daily cash withdrawals. These features have proven immensely popular with compulsive and problem gamblers as well as regular patrons, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have called for all banks operating in the United Kingdom to adopt these features, as they have testified to their effectiveness in treating compulsively gambling patients. Furthermore most of these features could be assessed by an accessibility engineer attempting to perform transactions online.
On the second front, online gambling sites themselves, standards have already been written by the National Council on Problem Gambling. Some of these standards can easily be assessed by a WCAG tester, such as the ability to limit money spent and the presence clock that can show time passing, and many others that are too numerous to list out here. However, since these standards were written in 2012, they can be expanded and improved upon to reflect the 2019 internet. According to one psychiatrist interviewed for this project, a feature that allows the problem gambler to enter a contact method for his or her sponsor, therapist or spouse if they attempt to access the site again after he or she has blocked him or herself could be tremendously beneficial to recovery, as it would provide a real-time notification of a relapse.
I would also like to address one elephant in the room, which is that laws that protect disabled people usually do not protect compulsive gamblers. However, WCAG is not a legal standard, and therefore is not beholden to any particular country’s laws. Furthermore WCAG’s AAA level standards can be employed to ensure that standards for compulsive gamblers are considered above and beyond industry standard, and therefore unlikely to conflict with local laws.
I do not have a final answer on what any eventual standards could look like. Any standards to accommodate compulsive gamblers would need to be the result of collaboration between recovering compulsive gamblers, psychiatrists and therapists specializing in compulsive gambling, and accessibility engineers who’d be tasked with evaluating these sites. My intention is to add to the conversation people like David Swallow and David Caldwell have been carrying on expanding WCAG more to accommodate mental and cognitive disabilities. There is tremendous opportunity to do good here, and it is worth exploring.