Stigma is a sign of social unacceptability derived from shame or disgrace that is associated with something specific that is considered to be socially unacceptable (Perry, Beyer, and Holm 2009). Although ATs enable and facilitate participation for people with disabilities, AT users can experience stigma as a negative outcome (Zwijsen, Niemeijer, and Hertogh 2011). In such circumstances, AT users are perceived as weak or less able, attributes that in modern societies are assigned greater value than others. As a result, using the AT increases the visibility of conditions that others choose to discriminate and stigmatize. Although the dynamics of stigmatization associated with AT use has not been explored in regard to robots, it is possible that such behaviors of discrimination may extend to those who use robots as part of their rehabilitation processes. In addition, stigmatizing views may arise from users themselves as they interact with these novel technologies. For example, in a study conducted with 57 adults over the age of 40 who had their blood pressure taken by a medical student and a robot, Broadbent and colleagues (2010) found that participants had concerns regarding reliability, safety, and loss of personal care when the measurement was made by the robot. The readings of blood pressure did not differ between robot and medical student.

Efforts in individualizing and customizing AT have been shown to reduce stigma for people with disabilities (Sanford 2012) and hold promise for rehabilitation robotics. For example, attention to characteristics such as ethnicity and race of anthropomorphic robots may decrease stigma (see the section on robot morphology and behavior).

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