Understanding and overcoming negative attitudes towards disabled people: What works in practice?

The four DRILL partners are carrying out a piece of research to explore innovative ways of challenging negative attitudes towards disabled people. Each partner is carrying out a subsidiary project, focussing on a particular theme related to the project title. 

Coproduction in disability research: developing future strategies

About the research

Wales’ research project will be a qualitative study exploring the benefits and challenges associated in working with peer researchers. Specifically, we set out to answer the following research question: “What has DRILL learned about working with peer researchers through the work of DRILL-funded projects?”

The project will provide an opportunity to build on the findings and networks established through DRILL. Using DRILL funded projects as case-studies, we aim to analyse the barriers and possible solutions to working with peer researchers.

We will pay particular attention to language used, by critically analysing the term ‘peer researcher’ and if appropriate, will explore and recommend terminology more suited to the philosophy of coproduced research.

This project will be contributing towards the development of approaches to working with peer researchers within and outside of academia. In doing so, the project will help to strengthen and sustain the independent living movement, more broadly.

About out Privacy Policy

The Wales section of the DRILL 4 Nations Project is carried out by Disability Wales. Therefore, the research team for the project follows the obligations to protect the data of all people interacting with the project as spelled out in the Disability Wales Privacy Policy, which can be viewed on request.

Young people’s attitudes to disability

About the research

This project will examine children’s attitudes to disability, based on research conducted with CFEY, the education and youth ‘think and action-tank’. The findings will be based  on 11 focus groups with a mix of special educational needs or disabled pupils (SEND) and non-SEND pupils in mainstream and special schools.

The research will look at how schools respond to bullying behaviour, whether young disabled people are excluded from social networks and what the Department of Education should do to support teachers and schools.

Services for who? Changing attitudes of service designers and deliverers which underpin discrimination experienced by disabled people with other protected characteristics.



Inclusion Scotland is focussing on the attitudes of service providers to disabled people who also identify with any of the following protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010:

  • Age
  • Gender re-assignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

We are working in partnership with the DRILL Scotland National Advisory Group and are being guided in our research by a Co-production group of people affected by these issues.

The research is in three phases. In this first phase we are looking for people to answer an online survey to help us decide the themes to take forward in the research. At the end of the survey there is an opportunity to offer to take part in a 1:1 interview to further explore the themes.

Finally, in Phase 3 people taking part in the research can contribute to a focus group and get involved in developing solutions with policy makers and service providers.

See me as human being: How do attitudes within the social care system impact on the independent living choices of disabled people?

About the research

This project will examine the ways in which attitudes in the adult social care system impact on disabled people’s independent living choices. The research will ask how attitudes towards disabled people impact independent living choices and where people think the solutions lie.  It will explore where decision-making power needs to shift and how this change can come about.

We want to hear from disabled people who use adult social care services, but also from disabled people who are not accessing these services. We want to know about the attitudes they have experienced in relation to social care and independent living.  The project will generate research evidence about the impact of attitudes within social care, based on disabled people’s lived experience of this system. It will name problems and investigate solutions proposed by disabled people themselves. The research report will therefore present good solutions derived from the experiences of disabled people.

About our Privacy Policy 

The Northern Ireland section of the DRILL 4 Nations Project is carried out by Disability Action NI. Therefore, the research team for the project follows the obligations to protect the data of all people interacting with the project as spelled out in the Disability Action NI Privacy Policy. For a full text of this policy, please see https://www.disabilityaction.org/privacy-policy

Exciting ongoing research: 4 Nations Research project on attitudes and disability

Northern Ireland section: ‘‘Is It Me?’ How do attitudes in the adult social care system impact on the independent living choices of disabled people’.

This blog is an update on the exciting project regarding attitudes towards disabled people in the context of adult social care that we are currently conducting. The project is funded by the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) and the Big Lottery Fund, and is led by Disability Action NI (DANI). The project has the ambitious goal of conducting co-produced disability research, by setting up a Research Partnership comprised of disabled advocates, activists and a representative of the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC). The Research Partnership makes all the decisions about the project together ensuring that the lived experience and expertise of disabled people is always prioritised.

History and structure

The ‘Is It Me?’ Project started in May 2018 and the final report for the project will be ready in September 2019. The project has provided a great opportunity to discuss the under researched topic of attitudes and their impact on independent living choices, at a time when the adult social care system in Northern Ireland (NI) is being reformed. The project is divided in four stages: stage 1 is focus groups with disabled people; stage 2 is a focus group with professionals in the adult social care system; stage 3 is individual semi-structured interviews with disabled people; and stage 4 is an online survey for social work and social care workers. Ethical consideration and approval has been sought and successfully granted by the independent DRILL Ethics Committee, comprised of experienced disability studies scholars who have advised us on how best to conduct ethical co-produced disability research.

What we have done so far

We have completed stages 1 and 2 of the research, and the experience for both the Research Partnership and the participants has been positive and very informative! We facilitated four focus groups with disabled people in several locations across NI (Belfast, Cookstown and Derry/Londonderry). We engaged with 28 disabled people in these focus groups and had passionate discussions about the types of attitudes disabled people have experienced and how these attitudes can be both a barrier and an enhancement to independent living. We have spoken to people with various disabilities and long term conditions, who come from all corners of NI, and the various perspectives provided has ensured that the focus groups are shared and inclusive space.

We also facilitated a focus group with professionals in the adult social care system with the help of the NISCC. We wanted to speak to managers in the adult social care system, in order to get a rounded picture of how people perceive attitudes as either a barrier or an enhancement. What was fascinating about this focus group was that the managers recognised many of the issues and positive examples raised by disabled people. This has which confirmed that a vast majority of participants in the adult social care system would like to see it reformed, to account better for the impact of attitudes on independent living choices.

What comes next

Our next stage will be stage 3, or semi-structured interviews with disabled people, where we will continue the discussion on attitudes and their impact on independent living in much more depth. The interviews will start at the end of January 2019 and will take place over a few months. We aim to get in touch with many different people, in order to give a platform for some voices that do not get heard often. We are excited about the opportunity to research attitudes further and put forward the lived experience of the participants at the core of our final recommendations.


If you are interested in hearing more about the project, or if you want to get in touch with the Research Partnership, please contact the lead researcher Ivanka Antova from DANI at [email protected], or by calling 028 9029 7880.

Empowering People with Psychosocial Disabilities’ Participation in Physical Exercise


The 1 year pilot project is led by the Mental Health Foundation working with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland. The South Eastern Recovery College and Northern Recovery College are partners.

Research provides evidence that there is a widening 20 year mortality gap and increased risk of illness experienced by people with psycho-social disabilities – people with lived experience of mental health problems. Physical health inequality and preventable deaths is a listed issue among people with psycho-social disabilities in the Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) UK review.

This project is coproducing a physical activity programme with the purpose of:

  • Increasing our knowledge about what works to engage people with psycho-social disabilities in sustained physical activity to a level that is improving and protecting their physical health
  • Improving sports, recreation and leisure facilities and the professional practices of fitness instructors to empower people with psycho-social disabilities to engage in physical activity
  • Re-orientating social care and public health policy and practice to recognise the importance of integrating physical activity into a holistic approach to independent living

Peer researchers are being recruited through the Partners and receiving accredited training through Queen’s University Belfast. As members of the research team, the research methodology and programme design and delivery is being designed by the peer researchers.

The legacy of the project will be an evidenced based exercise programme that maximises participation and acceptability amongst those with psycho-social disabilities.

Examining the barriers faced by autistic people

All of the individuals involved in this project are autistic people, including Glasgow University, the researchers, students and the project advisory group.  The partners believe that this is a first in research.

The project investigates:

  • the barriers to participation, stereotypes and misconceptions about autistic people
  • the strategies used by autistic people in overcoming these barriers
  • the strengths and strategies of autistic people and how best to use them to increase independent living and promote full participation

The research evidence is strengthened by collection across Scotland and England, allowing for comparative analysis.  The participation of decision makers, including the NHS Trusts, allows for wide dissemination to organisations such as the Department for Work and Pensions, Autistic UK, Autistic Glasgow and the National Autistic Society.

Examining the barriers faced by autistic people by producing robust evidence which is used to influence strategies, interventions and provision of services to autistic people.

Learning by doing together



‘Learning by doing together’ is a community / university participatory research pilot project to employ peer support workers with learning disabilities in community supported accommodation.

The project partners are CHANGE, the Brandon Trust, Keyring Living Support Networks Ltd, Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC) – Leeds University Business School and NHS Employers.

The employment rate of people with learning disabilities is 6% (Hatton, 2015).  Learning by doing together will address the employment gap by piloting the creation of a role for people with learning disabilities.

The project will:

  • translate the peer support model of employment into learning disability services, and specifically supported accommodation
  • create opportunities for people with learning disabilities to be employed and contribute their talents to shaping learning disability services
  • provide new solution(s) to providing practical assistance that will better support people using learning disability services to make choices




Q-PLANS: Defining quality and rights-based Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) for disabled young people

Disabled young people will research and produce a quality and rights based framework to benchmark the delivery of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) in Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire. The research will address a gap in evidence concerning quality in decision making for disabled children and young people, and quality in the development of EHCPs which will impact on their live now and in the future.

The project partners are Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire, Coventry University, Coventry City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) and Zara Todd, disability equality consultant.

The unique and creative Q-Plan project is coproduced in design and will be co-led with 10 disabled young people. The project will involve:

  • young disabled people supporting their peers in becoming disabled people people’s human rights advocates who will become effective in changing the political and policy landscape
  • a focus on creatively considering what the present lives and futures of disabled young people could and should look like
  • disseminating the findings and learning beyond the 2 local authority areas

Potentially 250,000 disabled young people are eligible for EHCPs in England. Particular attention will be paid to communicating the findings to young disabled people, including those with requiring communication support. A minimum of 3000 education / health / care professionals will have access to the coproduced quality and rights based framework.

ImaYDiT (“I Made It”): Imagining Young Disabled People’s Transitions in a time of major societal change

‘ImaYDit’, led by the Wiltshire Centre for Independent Living, is a large 18 month research project to explore the transition from childhood to adulthood for disabled young people.  Other partners include the University West of England and Wiltshire Council.

The project will be coproduced with up 10 young disabled co -researchers who will engage with up to 50 young disabled participants to explore the enablers and opportunities for moving forward into independent lives.  The project will also engage with parents / guardians and local / national service providers.

‘ImaYDit’ will take place in the context of societal changes (such as automation, connectivity, social mixing and cultural diversity) and the unknowable potential of change for the lives of young disabled people.

The anticipated outcomes will include 60 young disabled people:

  • contributing to the knowledge base of what is expected of adult life in the future
  • identifying enablers to help them meet and exceed their expectations
  • having a direct influence with a wide range of stakeholders, including, colleges, employment supports services and commissioners at Wiltshire Council
  • having a more defined idea of what independent living means and what they should expect of in their future