A pioneering programme backed by £5 million of lottery cash has issued a call for user-led teams across the UK to apply for funding to research new ways to remove the barriers to independent living faced by disabled people.
The Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) programme is believed to be the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people, and should fund about 40 pieces of research and pilot projects over the next four years.
The aim is to build “robust” evidence on how to influence both policy and practice on independent living, and how to remove the barriers of attitude, environment, organisation, communication and finance that disabled people face.
The programme aims to “change the way research is done so that researchers and disabled people work together as partners”.
A series of 19 roadshows across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales helped to decide on the programme’s four project themes: participating in the economy, participating in community and social life, participating in civic and public life, and participating “fully and equally in anything and everything”.
Some of the issues raised in the roadshows about the barriers to participating in the economy included how to address the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people; how schools, colleges and universities could be made more inclusive; and what could be done to address disability poverty by both increasing disabled people’s income, and reducing their extra costs.
On community and social life, priorities included how to prevent social isolation; how organisations in local communities could be made fully inclusive; and how to stop disability hate crime.
On participating in civic and public life, key issues raised included how to increase the number of disabled people in elected office; how disabled people can influence party manifestos and government policies; and how to change the media’s frequent portrayal of disabled people as “scrounger, tragic victim or heroic survivor”.
The first opportunity to bid for funding opened this week, with a closing date of 27 July, with subsequent funding rounds opening in early 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The programme is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and will be delivered by the disabled people’s organisations Disability Rights UK, Disability Action Northern Ireland, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Wales.
Organisations can apply for grants of up to £150,000, with proposals initially assessed by a national advisory group – England’s group is chaired by disabled BBC presenter Peter White – before the programme’s central research committee of disabled people, academics and policy experts makes a final decision on funding.
Rhian Davies (pictured), chief executive of Disability Wales, said: “Our aim is to produce new evidence on what would support disabled people to access their right to independent living and take full part in society.
“The programme includes potential for pilot projects to test the evidence in practice and find out what will make a real difference to the quality of disabled people’s lives. We’re looking forward to receiving some exciting proposals.”
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said that disabled people would be “in the lead, setting the priorities and co-designing the projects.”
The disabled academic Dr Tom Shakespeare, chair of DRILL’s central research committee, said: “The starting gun has been fired on a very exciting competitive research process.
“We are looking for teams that have great ideas, true partnership between researchers and disabled people, and with real chance of improving the lives of disabled people.
“This is the first round of a five-year funding programme that will change disabled people’s lives for the better.”