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Robotics and the disability care sector: opportunity or threat?

Professor Tom Shakespeare and Dr Eduardo Sandoval

Relationships between care workers and people with disability are so important. I think relying on robots could change the way we value this care. We need more research on the social and cultural framing within which social robotics are developed.

Tom Shakespeare

With significant focus on the financial stability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the high number of people employed in the disability care sector and the costs associated with this, robotics has the potential to be a significant and cost-effective disruptor to this industry. 

But what does disability care of the future look like when provided or augmented by a robot rather than a person? Is this a safe way to alleviate costs and improve care, or does it introduce excessive risk into the lives of people living with a disability? 

British academic and prominent disability commentator Professor Tom Shakespeare explores these issues with Dr Eduardo Sandoval, expert in social robotics. Facilitated by Associate Professor Gemma Carey, Research Director of the Centre for Social Impact.

Recorded live for the Grand Challenge on Living with 21st Century technology and the UNSW Disability Innovation Institute.

About Tom Shakespeare

Tom Shakespeare is a Professor of Disability Research at the University of East Anglia, UK. Tom's primary research interests are in disability studies, medical sociology, and in social and ethical aspects of genetics.

Tom completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge, then worked at the Universities of Sunderland, Newcastle and Leeds before spending five years at the World Health Organization in Geneva. Tom is the author of Disability Rights and Wrongs (2006) and co-author of The Sexual Politics of Disability (1996), as well as a dozen academic books. He has founded several disabled people’s organisations; chaired the central research committee of the £5m Disability Research for Independent Living and Learning programme; is a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics; and a former member of Arts Council England. He has also authored three television documentaries and presents ‘A Point of View’ regularly on BBC Radio 4.

About Eduardo Benítez Sandoval

Dr Eduardo Benítez Sandoval is a Scientia Fellow in the faculty of Art and Design at UNSW Sydney. Eduardo holds a PhD in Human Interface Technology from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and has a background in Bionics Engineering, Industrial Design and Ergonomics, and Interface Technologies. Eduardo's current research is in social robotics and in how people make decisions when they interact with robots and other interactive devices. His work incorporates insights from behavioural economics and social psychology to explore different approaches in social robotics.

About Gemma Carey

Associate Professor Gemma Carey is the Research Director at the Centre for Social Impact UNSW. Gemma has investigated processes of ‘joining up’ within government and between government and non-government organisations. Her current research focuses on the design and implementation of the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme and the challenges of quasi-markets in disability.