AI and voice technologies in disability and social care

There is a crisis in social care for disabled people, and care providers are turning to AI for high-tech solutions.

Voice technologies are often marketed as enabling people’s independence. Many adverts, policy reports and human-computer interaction studies suggest that new technologies and the ‘Internet of Things’ will help disabled people gain independence.

However, technology-centred approaches often take a medicalized approach to ‘fixing’ individual disabled people, which can stigmatize them by presenting them as ‘broken’, offering high-tech, lab-based solutions over more realistic adaptations.

Research in this area also often focuses on medical interventions rather than on how disabled people adapt technologies and work with their carers to enhance their independence.

“Disabled people are experts—by necessity—at creative problem solving, so it makes sense to look for technological innovation in the bottom-up solutions that people discover in their everyday lives.”

Dr Saul Albert Lecturer in Social Sciences (Social Psychology)

Research in focus

Voice technologies in social care

Dr Saul Albert is leading a project to explore how disabled people adapt consumer voice technologies, such as the Amazon Alexa, to enhance their personal independence.

The project is also exploring the wider opportunities and risks that AI-based voice technologies may present for future social care services.

Using a Social Action research method to involve disabled people and carers in shaping the research from the outset, and conversation analysis to examine how participants work together using technology (in the broadest sense – including language and social interaction), the project aims to solve everyday access issues.

This project is funded by The British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grants scheme.

Meet the expert

Saul Albert

Dr Saul Albert

Lecturer in Social Sciences (Social Psychology)

Dr Elizabeth Stokoe

Dr Elizabeth Stokoe

Professor of Social Interaction

Dr Thorsten Gruber

Thorsten Gruber

Professor of Marketing and Service Management