About The DRILL Programme

DRILL – what does it mean?

Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) is the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people.

‘D’ is for Disability

This means the things that can stop people who have any experience of physical or mental impairment or long-term health condition from participating in activities in the way people who do not have an impairment can.  People are ‘disabled’ by what stops them participating, not their impairment.  These are called barriers.

These barriers can include:

Bad attitudes and behaviour towards people who have an impairment or long-term health condition.  This might involve not taking any notice of what they say, assuming they cannot do things when in fact they can, intimidating or harassing them, or treating them as if they are children and cannot make decisions for themselves.  We call these ‘attitudinal barriers’.

The way buildings are designed so that people with some types of impairment or long-term health condition cannot get into them or use them like everyone else.  The same can apply to outside spaces and transport that are not designed so that everyone can use them equally.  We call these ‘environmental barriers’.

The way things like employment, services or events are organised.  For example, event organisers may not be flexible about how, when or where something is done.  They may not allow enough time for meeting papers to be translated into Braille or easy read, or for people who cannot use inaccessible public transport to travel to a venue, or may insist someone has to work at a certain time even if it is the sort of job where it really does not matter.  We call these ‘organisational barriers’.

The way things are communicated which exclude people with some forms of impairment or long-term health conditions.  This is not just about things like using very small print or lots of jargon, or inaccessible web-sites, or not providing British Sign-Language or Irish Sign Language interpreters and so on.  It is also about the negative images of disabled people that are often used in the media.  We call these ‘communication barriers’.

The extra costs of disability – for things like having to use taxis, extra heating, special diets – combined with barriers to getting a job and earning an income.  We call these ‘financial barriers’.

Together these are called ‘social barriers’.  This way of thinking about disabled people is called the ‘social model of disability’.  If disabled people are to experience independent living and participate equally in society, all social barriers need to be removed.

Finding new ways to remove the barriers to independent living and enabling disabled people to participate fully is what DRILL is all about.  To do this we need to get better evidence about what would help make this happen.  In particular, we need to get more evidence based on the life experiences of disabled people themselves.

‘R’ is for Research

All policy and practice should be based on evidence.  If politicians, service providers – or indeed any decision makers – do not have good evidence about what works, they will make bad decisions.  They will not achieve their own goals.  They will waste time and money.  It can also mean that people who have a lot to contribute to their communities, the economy and public life are prevented from doing so.  This is not just bad for them personally, but for society as a whole.  This is why research is so important.

The way in which research is done – the methods that are used to find out evidence – matters a great deal.  Research needs to be robust.  What we mean by robust is that the right research methods are used to reach sound evidence and findings that can be trusted.  This will enable DRILL research to be recognised and acted upon by decision makers.

Research has traditionally been carried out by non-disabled researchers and has usually treated disabled people as subjects of research, rather than as equal partners in research.  We think that the results of research about disability will be better if decisions about what is researched and the way the research is done, are informed by the lived experience of disabled people.  They may or may not know about how to do research, but they do know about the barriers that affect them, what questions to ask people, and what solutions would work.

The challenge for DRILL is to change the way research is done so that researchers and disabled people work together as partners and coproduce robust research.  We want to re-define what coproduced research actually means and encourage academics and researchers to work in this way as standard practice.

Please find our definition of coproduction in the Helpful Documents section, Annex 4.

DRILL is not just interested in research projects.  We are also interested in ‘pilot’ projects which test something out in real life.  This might be done for a number of possible reasons.  A pilot project might be used test out how the solutions identified by previous research could work in practice.  You may have a very good idea to test out through a pilot project.  There is more information about DRILL research and pilot projects in Section 3.

‘IL’ is for Independent Living

We define independent living as:

“All disabled people having the same choice, control, dignity and freedom as any other citizen to achieve their goals at home, in education, at work, and as members of the community.  This does not necessarily mean disabled people doing things for themselves but it does mean having the right to practical assistance based on their choices and aspirations.“

This definition was originally developed by the Disability Rights Commission. It was also used in the Westminster Government report called ‘Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People’ (2005).  For disabled people to really have independent living, they must be able to participate equally in all the activities that non-disabled people can. When we talk about ‘participation’ or ‘inclusion’ we mean being able to join in and contribute the wide range of talents and expertise that disabled people have, shaping their communities and organisations, and fulfilling their potential.  This benefits disabled people as well as wider society. For this to happen all barriers must be removed and disabled people must receive the support they need.

Independent living means removing barriers to participating in the economy, in communities and social activities, and in civic and public life. It means disabled people must be able to exercise all their human rights as contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (known as UNCRPD for short).

‘L’ is for Learning

Learning is what DRILL is all about.  It is then important to share the learning from the projects and inspiring action to implement their findings.  In this way, we hope that more disabled people will be able to experience independent living and exercise their human rights.  But learning is also about everyone involved in DRILL learning from each other about their different experiences and skills.  For example, disabled people might learn more about how to do research and how to collect good evidence that will convince decision makers that particular approaches are effective, or offer value for money.  Through being involved as a coproduction partner, disabled people’s organisations might be better able to demonstrate that they know about running a project, or managing finances, or working well with different people.  This might help them attract more resources.  Non-disabled researchers might learn more about what life is really like for disabled people, and about better ways to carry out inclusive research.  We hope that everyone involved will learn new, useful things and build their capacity through being involved in DRILL.