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Dr Fiachra O’Brolchain: Outgoing Fellow

Project Title: The Ethics of Assistive Technology

Host Institution: Queen’s University Belfast (2 yrs) with return phase DCU (1 yr)

Host PI: Dr Keith Breen, School of Politics, International Studies, and Philosophy (QUB) & Dr Bert Gordijn, Institute Ethics, DCU

Home Institution: Dublin City University (DCU)


The aim of this project is to provide ethical analyses and recommendations regarding the development, use and distribution of assistive technologies (AT) for people with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. While AT can increase the independence and opportunities for people with ID or ASD there are a number of ethical issues to consider. Basic human rights such as privacy, informed consent and data protection must be protected. The project will have three distinct phases.  The first phase will take a broad overview of issues of assistive technologies – looking at themes of social justice, moral hazard, and stigmatisation and marginalisation. 

The second phase will narrow the focus to look at the ethical challenges confronting users of assistive technologies and their carers.  This phase will examine issues of privacy, autonomy, and responsibility.  The third phase will narrow the focus further, to scrutinize dilemmas facing the designers of assistive technologies and those responsible for clinical trials of the technologies. 

To conclude, a synthesis report will be produced, summarising the findings and providing recommendations in a manner intended to be of practical value to developers and designers, health-care workers and other stakeholders.