The HANDS-project is aimed at empowering young people diagnosed with autism. Although this may be seen as a rather noble goal, we are within the HANDS-project also striving to make sure that the means used in empowering the young people are ethically sound. In order to achieve this the HANDS-project incorporates an Ethical Board with representatives from different fields of academia, schools and parents of young people with autism. The Ethical Board has, more specifically, been given the task of discussing general ethical questions related to HANDS, of ethically evaluating the requirements of the systems which are supposed to be tested and used by children and young people with an autism diagnosis, and of ethically evaluating all clinical tests involving children and young people with an autism diagnosis. The Ethical Board will assemble 3-4 times throughout the HANDS-project.
One of the issues, to provide an example, that will be discussed by the Ethical Board is the possible coercive nature of the instructions, advice, or help offered by the handheld devices to the young people with an autism diagnosis. The handheld devices are supposed to help young people with autism 'navigate'. As such the devices are clearly supposed to influence the behaviour of the young people. This in turn raises the question of whether the influence excerted upon the behaviour of the young people is ethically acceptable - or whether it amounts to coercion in an unjustifiable manner.