Pg 63 Made me think - wheelchair logoDisabled and elderly people’s dignity is the focus of latest research involving robotic wheelchairs at the University of Essex.

The Robotics and Embedded Systems Research Group at Essex has been carrying out research into intelligent robotic wheelchairs for ten years, studying how everything from voice and body movements to muscle and brain activity can operate a wheelchair.

Now, Essex has teamed up with its Eastern ARC partner the University of Kent, as well as health professionals and scientists from France, Belgium and the Netherlands to take a fresh look at research into robotic wheelchairs, as part of the Empowerment of Disabled People through Ethics in Care and Technology project, funded by the EU Interreg IVA 2 Mers Seas Zeeën Cross-border Cooperation Programme.

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The six-month project will involve the scientists getting a better understanding of the ethical aspect of this type of technology.

“It is all about building an intelligent wheelchair that people will want and are happy to use, as opposed to something that just suits the care providers,” explained Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier, who is leading the research at Essex.

Working with care professionals, the research will involve taking the technology forward in a positive way from the user’s point of view, taking into account the wheelchair user’s dignity and independence when designing the wheelchair.