The National Robotarium played host to the Ability Centre, a community partner at Heriot-Watt University on Friday 18 August. The service, based in West Lothian, supports adults aged 16 to 65 with physical disabilities through centre-based and outreach services.

Their collaboration with the Heriot-Watt Engage team includes the Eco Ableism project, which aims to understand challenges faced by disabled individuals in adopting eco-friendly lifestyles. The project highlighted potential discrimination and the neglect of unique needs in eco-policy changes – particularly when it comes to changing local government policies to reduce carbon emissions.

Given the range of service users who took part in the focus groups, and their generosity of sharing their time and transparency of their lived experiences, members were invited to campus to explore The National Robotarium and Laboratory for Robotic Assistive Living (LARA). The group was introduced to various strands of ongoing research with presentations and tours – exploring the Precision Laser Applications (PLA) labs, as well as the behind the scenes of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) lab. This allowed them to engage with impactful research and express their thoughts.

Camilla Irvine-Fortescue from HW Engage emphasised the importance of building trust with community partners and said: “By inviting them onto campus, we are not only thanking them for their vital contributions to the Eco-Ableism project, but we are starting a conversation about what research means to them and the direct societal impacts it has”.

Dr Alistair McConnell who, alongside National Robotarium Outreach Leads, Blair Wilson and Sabaht Bashir, supported the visit and said: “It was a great pleasure meeting the people from The Ability Centre community and showing them around the National Robotarium, as well as engaging in fascinating conversation about the research we do around assisted living, AI in the creative industries and much more.”