“Legally Disabled?” Transforming the culture of the legal profession

Why are disabled people seemingly unexpected in the legal profession and what can we do to create a culture of inclusion and access?

These are the questions that the Cardiff University based “Legally Disabled?” research team are setting out to answer. Working in coproduction with the Lawyers with Disabilities Division of the Law Society, the researchers held a series of focus groups around the UK with disabled legal professionals. This helped to identify the key issues experienced by disabled people in trying to get into the profession and then progressing their careers once there. The team are now looking for individuals to participate in one to one interviews that can explore these issues in more depth.


This is the first project of its kind that focuses on disabled people in the legal profession and hopes to begin some much needed conversations about addressing barriers and promoting equality and inclusion.

Disabled people working in other professions may well experience similar barriers to career entry and progression as those in the legal field. The researchers hope that the findings of this research will be transferable to other occupations. Much policy attention is focused on getting disabled people off benefits and into any work, regardless of whether the work is suitable, accessible or good quality. It’s crucial that employment policies support disabled professionals to progress their careers and retain high quality employment. Very little research currently exists to document the experiences of disabled people in professional careers.


Disabled people seeking employment or working in the legal profession are an untapped resource. Their lived experience of disability means they have strong ambition, tenacity, determination and excellent problem-solving skills – all qualities that bring great benefits to employers.

However, findings suggest positive experiences of support, good attitudes and appropriate reasonable adjustments are something of a lottery.

Key Findings:

Entering the profession

  • The profession is generally poorly equipped to anticipate reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled candidates who apply for a training contract or pupillage. Lack of part-time training contracts is one such barrier.


Disability awareness

  • Discrimination and a poor understanding of reasonable adjustments and how impairments and health conditions can vary, impacts heavily at the interview stage. This creates disadvantage and reduces opportunities for entering and progressing in Law.


Disclosure and seeking reasonable adjustments

  • A large proportion of focus group participants reported instances of discrimination associated with their impairment. This creates a reluctance to disclose an impairment or health condition which in turn prevents individuals from accessing support.


Working culture and expectations

  • Inflexible, often outdated working practices and the absence of imaginative job design, limits access opportunities for disabled people and career progression.
  • Profitability and competition drives vast sections of the profession, disabled people feel they are unfairly viewed as not being ‘profitable’, productive or capable of meeting targets. The valued added by disabled people can be overlooked.


The good practice

  • There are early indications that examples of good practice are influenced by sector of the profession, size and location of firm and the role of equality clauses in procurement contracts.
  • Strong role models, supportive senior colleagues and the presence of mentors and networks are important factors for enabling career progression.


There are commonalities with other groups, such as women and those with caring responsibilities. Improved opportunities for flexible working and inclusive workplaces benefit the wider workforce and clients. The lessons learned from this research will also be transferable to other professional occupations.

How to get involved

If you are (or were) a disabled legal professional and would like to contribute through a one to one interview, you can find out more on www.legallydisabled.com or contact the researchers on [email protected]

However, the research is independent of any professional association, regulator or employer and your anonymity is assured at all times.


CARP Collaborations: From existing to living


Today young people with learning disabilities are delivering powerful messages to Welsh politicians about the social isolation and social segregation of their peers.


Young people with disabilities feel they face many prejudices which harms their life chances and well-being.  They feel they are too often ‘just existing’ rather than living a good life. They face problems of isolation, bullying, separation from communities and lack of opportunities. These are the messages that young disabled people will be sharing with Assembly Members and policy makers in the Senedd today.


These messages are captured in an important report published today by C.A.R.P. (Community Action in Research and Policy) Collaborations in partnership with The Building Bridges Project. In an innovative and unique research project, funded by the Big lottery Fund through the UK wide DRILL research programme, C.A.R.P. Collaborations has trained and employed 8 young people with learning disabilities as peer researchers. These peer researchers have worked with 85 young people living in the Gwent area to investigate patterns of friendship and social isolation among young people with learning disabilities in transition to adulthood.


A peer researcher explains how “we tried to find out what support is needed, how we can move from the experience of ‘existing’ into the experience of ‘living a full life’. We wanted to look at friendship patterns and how they contribute to ‘having fun’ and ‘having a happy fulfilled life’ and how a loss or lack of friendships can create loneliness and ‘unhealthy lives’”.


They continue, “Today we want to share our findings with those who have the power to make things happen for young people with learning disabilities.”


The young people highlight how they found that life was still a daily battle for many young people with learning disabilities. For example, they found evidence of bullying and hate crime.


“Many young disabled people were being goaded to do things that they did not want to do, baiting and teasing and cyber bullying. These experiences lead some, young people to drop out of mainstream education, some were too scared to go out in their neighbourhoods”.


It doesn’t stop there, young people with learning disabilities are also more likely to experience or be at risk of social isolation and exclusion. They rely more heavily on parents and grandparents and carers to help them get to see friends.  They also find they make friends with people at projects but then lose contact once those projects or schemes end. This leaves many only able to keep in touch with their friends electronically.


The peer researchers also want to highlight how young people with learning disabilities feel more needs to be done through the education system to help young people with learning disabilities develop personal aspirations and help find work. For example, the researchers found, “young people with learning disabilities don’t get the opportunity to undertake work experience at the same age as non- disabled peers.”


Julie Morgan AM advocate for children’s rights and cross- party group chair of children and young people’s assembly members group said, “I am delighted that the peer researchers have chosen to launch their findings at the Senedd.  It is so important that Assembly Members get to hear the young people’s important messages first hand and I hope other young people with learning disabilities will take inspiration from their work.”


Vikki Butler, Co-Director of CARP Collaborations and report author says “I am so proud of the work these young people have done and their courage in putting themselves forwards to speak today.  They have some important and sometimes troubling messages to get across. I hope that the people who attend really listen to what the young people have to say and act to make a difference.”


The full findings and video can be accessed on the 24th May on  http://www.carpcollaborations.org/

Blog Post- Introducing a research project ‘Young People and friendships: what matters to us?’

38% of disabled young people feel lonely most days (Sense, 2016). It almost rolls off the tongue, ‘lonely most days’ as a glib, catch-all phase. But if we properly listen to disabled young people, we will become aware of a very stark situation that needs urgent action.

In evaluative research, C.A.R.P. Collaborations has been working with disabled young people who use the Building Bridges project, a community connecting and transition service, in Monmouthshire. These young people have explained exactly what ‘lonely most days’ actually means; through reflection on what life is like now, since they have had support to maintain friendships: ‘I was existing, but now I’m living.’ Having friends means that ‘I’m not alone now. I felt incredibly alone. I started suffering from OCD, anxiety and I had my learning difficulty and I was all alone.’ And loneliness often brings low self-esteem with it: ‘Since joining Building Bridges I realised I was not so bad’.

These descriptions paint a bleak picture of transition experience. But this experience is not shared across all young people. Why is it that most (by no means all) non-disabled young people’s life trajectories lead them to find their path in the world through apprenticeships or further learning, sexual relationships, networks of friendships and a variety of options ahead of them whilst; in various small evaluation and service development assessments that C.A.R.P. Collaborations has undertaken, this blossoming of social life, or indeed participation in the adult world, does not appear to be a common experience for disabled young people. Without certain types of transition support or access to community activities young disabled people often describe themselves as ‘all alone’.

Social life and friendship are often seen as trivial; particularly within the eyes of social researchers who feel there are more weighty problems to investigate. However, re-reading these quotes, we can see that social lives and community participation are crucial; to both wellbeing and identity. But we need to know so much more in order to give the same opportunities and dreams to disabled young people that the majority of non-disabled young people currently have. The DRILL programme has enabled us to do exactly this. We are working across South East Wales to find out what are the patterns of friendship for disabled young people in transition to adulthood? What helps to maintain friendships and what are the attitudinal, organisational and environmental barriers that stop their participation in social life?

But who are the best people to do that investigation? Should a research project rely upon the C.A.R.P. staff team; all of whom are academically trained, non-disabled and aged over 45? We can empathise as individuals and analyse as academics; but to really get it right we need those young people in our research team. They are the people who know this issue, who have so accurately described the experience of friendship and explained the full implications of what ‘lonely most days’ actually means. They are also the people who will know what needs to happen to change in service design to change this bleak social reality. So the research project involves training and mentoring young disabled people to take work placements in researcher roles and work with us to explore these important questions. We are at the early stages of this peer research journey and hope our next blog opportunity will be a video account from a peer researcher colleague.

Vikki Butler is research director within Community Action in Research and Policy (C.A.R.P.) Collaborations, a social business and workers’ co-operative based in Swansea.

DRILL Roadshow Reports


The DRILL Programme, through its national partners, has now completed over 18 DRILL Roadshows across Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.  The purpose of which was to determine how research and piloting would contribute most to achieving independent living.


The DRILL Roadshows were based on the principles of co-production involving Disabled People Organisations (DPOs) from across the impairment spectrum, disabled people, academics, policy makers and senior practitioners.


Over 640 people were directly engaged and many more indirectly through social media, with disabled people in the majority.  National Advisory Groups (NAGs) received a draft report and further engagement was undertaken to satisfy the equality and diversity values of DRILL.


The 4 Reports will now inform the basis upon which the Programme will proceed and the reframing of the DRILL Themes for research and pilot projects.



DRILL Roadshow Report – Northern Ireland

DRILL Roadshow Report – England

DRILL Roadshow Report – Scotland

DRILL Roadshow Report – Wales

Adroddiad Sioeau Teithiol & Cysylltu Cymru


Thank you to all who have participated so far with DRILL.  Please stay in touch.

DRILL Launch Wales: Disabled people to lead on £5 million research programme

Disabled people will be at the forefront of designing an innovative new £5 million UK-wide programme on Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL).

DRILL is fully funded by the Big Lottery Fund and will be delivered across the UK by a consortium of national disabled people’s organisations, including Disability Wales.

The DRILL programme, which is launched in Wales on 22 September, will see disabled people working alongside academics and policy makers to develop the programme. The programme will gather evidence on the social barriers to independent living and learning which disabled people face. Research findings will be used to develop pilot projects and inform policy development and practice to bring about real improvements to the lives of disabled people.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales, said:

“This is the first research programme which ensures disabled people, and the issues that matter to us, are central to research funding decisions. The aim is to build a solid evidence base on the initiatives and support which enable disabled people to fully participate in society. When everyone can participate in the world we live in, it makes sense for us all. Given the emphasis in Wales on ‘voice and control’, the DRILL programme is very timely and will provide a golden opportunity to provide the evidence that will shape future policy and legislation from the citizen’s perspective”.

DRILL is expected to fund a total of 40 research proposals and pilot projects across the UK. It will investigate how public money can be best used to support disabled people’s social, economic and political inclusion. The research programme will aim to identify the solutions that work best for people living with a range of impairments, chronic health conditions and circumstances.

The funding criteria will be decided after a series of engagement events with disabled people, under the research themes of peer support, autonomy, resilience and social, economic and civic participation. Disabled people and their organisations will be supported to work on their research bids in partnership with academics and policy makers.

A Central Research Committee (CRC) will decide which research proposals are taken forward. Disabled academic Dr Tom Shakespeare, chair of the CRC, said:

“Research can make a real difference to disabled people’s lives. It documents our experiences, and the barriers we face. But the best research is done in partnership with disabled people themselves. I am looking forward to the new research findings with real excitement.”

A call for research proposals will be issued early next year and the first round of funding is expected to be announced in April 2016.

For further information please go to www.drilluk.org.uk

Pobl anabl i arwain rhaglen ymchwil £5 miliwn

Bydd pobl anabl yn chwarae rhan flaenllaw wrth gynllunio rhaglen arloesol gwerth £5 miliwn ar draws y Deyrnas Unedig – Ymchwil Anabledd ar Fyw’n Annibynnol a Dysgu (DRILL).

Cyllidwyd DRILL yn llawn gan Gronfa’r Loteri Fawr er mwyn ei weithredu ar draws y Deyrnas Unedig gan gonsortiwm o gyrff pobl anabl, yn cynnwys Anabledd Cymru.

Yn dilyn y lansiad ar 22 Medi, bydd DRILL Cymru yn cymell pobl anabl i gydweithio ochr yn ochr ag academyddion a llunwyr polisïau i ddatblygu’r rhaglen. Bydd yn crynhoi tystiolaeth am y ffactorau cymdeithasol sy’n rhwystro pobl anabl rhag byw’n annibynnol a dysgu. Yna, bydd yn defnyddio’r canlyniadau i ddatblygu projectau peilot a hysbysu datblygiad polisïau er cyflwyno gwelliannau gwirioneddol i fywydau pobl anabl.

Dywedodd Rhian Davies, prif weithredwraig Anabledd Cymru:

“Hon fydd y rhaglen ymchwil gyntaf i sicrhau bydd pobl anabl, a’r materion sy’n bwysig i ni, yn ganolog i benderfyniadau ar gyllido ymchwil. Y nod yw datblygu tystiolaeth gadarn ar fentrau a chymorth er galluogi pob anabl i chwarae rhan lawn mewn cymdeithas. Mae’n gwneud synnwyr i alluogi pawb i gyfrannu at gymdeithas. Gyda’r pwyslais yng Nghymru ar ‘lleisio barn a rheolaeth’, mae rhaglen DRILL yn amserol iawn ac yn gyfle gwych i gasglu tystiolaeth er siapio polisïau a deddfwriaeth o safbwynt dinasyddion.”

Rhagwelir bydd DRILL yn cyllido 40 project peilot ac ymchwil ar draws y Deyrnas Unedig. Bydd yn ymchwilio sut orau i ddefnyddio arian cyhoeddus i gefnogi cynhwysiad cymdeithasol, economaidd a gwleidyddol pobl anabl. A’r bwriad yw nodi atebion ar gyfer pobl gydag amrediad o amhariadau, a chyflyrau ac amgylchiadau iechyd cronig.

Pennir y meini prawf cyllid ar ôl cynnal cyfres o ddigwyddiadau gyda phobl anabl, o dan themâu ymchwil megis cymorth cyfoedion, annibyniaeth, dycnwch a chyfranogiad cymdeithasol, economaidd a dinesig. Bydd yn helpu pobl anabl i weithio ar gynigion ymchwil mewn partneriaeth ag academyddion a llunwyr polisïau.

Bydd Pwyllgor Ymchwil Canolog yn pennu pa gynigion ymchwil fydd yn derbyn cyllid. Dywedodd yr academydd anabl Dr Tom Shakespeare, cadeirydd y Pwyllgor:

“Mae ymchwil yn gallu gwneud gwahaniaeth gwirioneddol i fywydau pobl anabl, wrth nodi ein profiadau a’r rhwystrau byddwn yn wynebu. Ond yr ymchwil gorau yw gwaith gyda phobl anabl eu hunain. Rwy’n edrych ymlaen at weld y canlyniadau ymchwil.”

Bydd y rhaglen yn gwahodd cynigion ymchwil yn gynnar yn y Flwyddyn Newydd, gyda’r nod o gyhoeddi’r cymal cyllid cyntaf yn Ebrill 2016.

Manylion pellach yn www.drilluk.org.uk