Edge Hill University
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“AI? Don't talk to me about AI...”: Disabled students and technological pessimism

posted on 2024-06-19, 12:12 authored by Katharine TerrellKatharine Terrell


Marvin the Paranoid Android from the science fiction franchise The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is known for having a "brain the size of a planet" and a bleak outlook on life. Like Marvin, generative AI tools also have planet-sized brains yet can produce pessimism about what this means for the future. Educators have ethical concerns about plagiarism, bias, and more. 

Some of these issues feel particularly keen for disabled students. AI may be another example in a long history of ambivalent feelings from disabled people towards technological advances. On the one hand, AI tools have many uses that some disabled students might find particularly valuable, such as summarising an unfamiliar topic. Yet, for disabled people, technology has often had a sinister side: expectations that we should aim for high tech “cures” instead of creating a more just society, for example. Part of creating a just society is listening to and understanding disabled people’s own collective knowledge and wisdom –  we must value “crip epistemic insight” (Sanchez, 2015).

Some disabled people’s wisdom is not fully captured in the written word because they do not write, or choose not to. But there is hope: for example, a Deaf programmer who is creating a way for ChatGPT to understanding sign language. Marvin, despite his cynicism, is still a valued friend – how can we make AI a valued friend to disabled students, too?


Advance HE Fellowship status

  • Fellowship

Author's role

  • Educational developer

Accessibility status

  • Has passed accessibility checks


University of Glasgow

Date of resource creation

June 2024



Learning Resource Type

  • Conference Contribution

Target Group or Audience

Higher education educators