About The DRILL Programme

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DRILL – what does it mean?

‘Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning’ (DRILL) is an exciting new research programme. It is the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people. DRILL is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and will make grants for projects from anywhere in the UK. It will fund projects to carry out research and projects to ‘pilot’ or test things out. The programme will last for 4 years. The first opportunity to apply for a grant will be on 09 May 2016 when the programme opens. The closing date for receiving applications for this first round is 27 July 2016.  There will be other rounds in the future.  Dates of future rounds can be found in Annex 6.

‘D’ is for Disability

There are different ways of defining ‘disability’. When we talk about disability we mean 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. We call the things that can get in the way ‘barriers’.

These barriers can include:

  • Bad attitudes and behaviour towards people who have an impairment or long-term health condition, like 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, even though it would make no difference to the purpose of the event. 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 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, etc – 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. There are lots of ways this might be done. For example:

  • Influencing the public’s attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people


  • Influencing new plans, like new types of services or new technologies, so they are designed to be inclusive and useful to disabled people from the start


  • Changing the way things are designed. This includes education, jobs, services, buildings, transport, and events


  • Providing support to disabled people, like advocacy, or Personal Assistance, or equipment, or support from other disabled people in the same situation (this is called ‘peer support’)


  • Ensuring disabled people have the information they need and enabling them to learn new skills (capacity-building)


  • Making sure that Government Ministers, local authorities and others who make decisions about policy and practice have good evidence about barriers and how they can be removed. The same goes for employers, local political party organisers, leisure service providers and anyone who wants to make sure what they do is as inclusive as possible


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 experience 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. It can be the best way to get the evidence that decision-makers need to make good decisions.  But it does not follow that all research is good research, or that the evidence it finds will always be accurate, reliable and clear. Or that it will be used by decision makers.  The way in which research is done – the methods that are used to find out evidence – matter a great deal. Research needs to be robust.  What we mean by robust is that the right research methods are used to reach sound research evidence and findings that can be trusted.   Therefore, research produced by DRILL funding will be more likely to be recognised and acted on 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 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 make sure that the research remains robust.  We want to push the boundaries and redefine what this actually means.


However, DRILL is not just interested in projects to carry out research. We are also interested in funding ‘pilot’ projects to 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 carrying out research would actually work in real life. This might be research previously funded by DRILL or other research which is already completed. You could also just suggest a very good idea to test out through a pilot project. There is more information about DRILL pilot projects later on in this guidance.


‘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 it follows that 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 and wider society. For this to happen it means that all barriers must be removed and that disabled people have any 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 about ‘drilling down’ to find out new things about independent living in new ways. It is then about spreading 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 learining 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 (more on this appears later on), 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.


Please find our definition of coproduction in Annex 5.