Independent Living – Deaf & Disabled People’s Experiences During COVID-19

Collage with photos and swirly patterns in green, yellow and purple. Group of six disabled people around the number ‘6’. COVID Alert Level symbol. Hospital with a ‘We are nearly full’ sign. Black person using a wheelchair wearing a mask, on a bus. Nurse wearing a mask, at a NHS COVID Vaccination centre. Image of the Coronavirus. Person taking part in a Zoom meeting using a laptop. Group of three Disabled people, with a poster behind them titled ‘Human Rights Act.’

Saturday 15 May 2021

From 11.00 am to 1.00pm

This event is a chance for Deaf and Disabled people to have their say on what has happened to them during the Covid-19 pandemic, learn about other people’s experiences and share ideas about what the right to Independent Living means, during and after COVID-19.

With presenters including:

● Ellen Clifford, author of ‘The War on Disabled People’

● David Mellings , Centre for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

● Mark Williams, founder of BRIL

Book a free ticket here

The event will be on Zoom.

People can join using a computer, laptop or tablet.

You can also join in using a phone if you do not use a computer.

To find out more e-mail:

Or text / phone : 07592 007246

Listen to this post

Artwork by @JamieDoughty11

Come and ask the future Mayor of Bristol your questions

Easy Read 'Ask The Future Mayor Your Questions Poster'
Easy Read ‘Ask The Future Mayor Your Questions Poster’
Play audio of Easy Read Leaflet

If you are a Deaf or Disabled Person living in Bristol, this is your chance to ask the person who will be Mayor of Bristol your question.

There will be Zoom meeting on

Wednesday 28th April

From 7.00-9.00 pm

Candidates from the four main parties have been asked to talk about issues that particularly affect Disabled People:

Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties. 

They will also answer questions that people have sent in.

If you would like to attend or send in a question please contact Alun from the Bristol Sight Loss Council at 

or ring 07779 169019

by Wednesday 21st April.

Organised by:

Bristol Sight Loss Council

Bristol Disability Equality Forum (BDEF)

Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL)

Centre for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (CfD)

Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN)


Know Your Human Rights!

Person using wheelchair and standing Black Disabled person, pointing to Human Rights Act banner. White Disabled man raises fist. Text: Know Your Human Rights! Tuesday 27th April. British Institute of Human Rights logo. BRIL logo.
Listen to information about the Know Your Human Rights event.

Tuesday 27th April

2.00pm to 3.30pm

Please join our event with:

The British Institute of Human Rights

At this online event you can find out about

● Human rights law. 

● Real stories about Disabled people’s rights. 

● Advice about challenging local policies.

● Visiting rights in hospitals, care homes, mental health services and GP surgeries.

To book your place, or if you have any questions about the event, please email

Or text BRIL and your message to : 07592 007246

You can send questions in advance

The event will have BSL interpreters

Four for Justice

Statue of Edward Colston being pulled down from plinth.
Crowd hold banners.  Bristol buildings frame the scene.
Blue sky.
Statue of Edward Colston being pulled down from plinth. Crowd cheer and hold banners.
Bristol buildings frame the scene. Blue sky.

By George A. Ayres

Written on 25th January 2025

The Court is in session

For acts of suppression

Against four who stood tall

For good in the long haul

Four who fought for justice

Brave they encompass

The passion of justice

Against injustices

Tyrants inherent

Both past and present

From within slavers’ ships

All remember the whips

To deaths in custody

Cruelties abundantly

– – –

Summer saw a statue go for a swim

Winter witness wrath of unjust whim

They picked four to send a dressing, 

Down Against those that gave Bristol’s blessing

By removing that ill idol of a slaver 

History will fulfil for great justice’s favour

As we will now honour the brave calls

Just as honouring the protests of St Pauls

– – –

Stand for four for justice

Against the corrupted

We will judge those for chains

Revelling in making pains

They prefer us all to cower

Before their reigns of power

Silence is what they aim

Yet we won’t play their game

Silence on injustices

Is not our substances

We stand tall with the four

Who stood with justice’s chore

Stand against oppression

As Court is in it’s session

– – –

This poem was written by George, a member of BRIL.

The poem was a reaction to the Colston 4 case.

You can read more on the Alternative Bristol website:

​UK Disability History Month 2020

Wednesday 18 November to Friday 18 December 2020

UK Disability History Month.
Black text on a yellow circle, within a Black Triangle.

Access: How far have we come?
How far do we have to go?

Arkbound Foundation and BRIL are hosting an online project for UK Disability History Month.
We would like to include different experiences and creative ideas about ‘access’ and ‘accessibility.’

If you have artwork, film, music, poetry or anything you would like to share, please get in touch!

We can offer anyone who takes part a small payment.
To find out more email:


Disability History Month 2020.
Access: How far have we come? 
How far do we have to go?

Poster with Arkbound and BRIL logos.

BRIL’s first year… what’s next?

Daphne Branchflower, seated in wheelchair wearing red jumper. Ellen Clifford holding Microphone. Mark Williams speaking into microphone.
Photograph courtesy of John Pring, Disability News Service

In 2019, a group of people in Bristol got together to talk about what the idea of ‘Independent Living’ means.

Independent Living can mean different things, to different people.

But the group agreed it should include:

● Having equal choices and decisions,

● Having support that meets our needs,

● Being fully included in the community.

We also agreed that Independent living does not mean being in institutions, being left your own, or having to fend for yourself. In other words, the ideals fought for by Disabled people over the last 50 years.

However, some of us felt that these ideas were being taken over, and being mis-used to mean something totally different.

Disabled people in the group had faced cuts to their support, and then been told that this would ‘encourage independence.’ We knew people in supported living, Disabled school children, asylum seekers and people in the mental health system that were having their support taken away. Again, the excuse from authorities was that this would ‘teach’ them to not need any support.

In the summer of 2019, Daphne Branchflower, one of founders of the group that became BRIL, died. Daphne had been part of the Disabled people’s movement for many years, fighting for our rights until the very end.

The group felt that we needed to do something.

At an event called ‘Untold Stories’ about Disability history at the Arnolfini in Bristol, Mark Williams talked about these ideas and whether a new group might be needed. After a few months of planning, BRIL was launched in September 2019.

Since then, BRIL has grown into a Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO), run by and for Disabled people, autistics, people with chronic illness and people who experience mental illness / distress.

Some of us have been involved in campaigning for many years, while others are new to disability groups. But what we all share is a commitment to changing things, to being honest and to making decisions as a group.

However, the Covid-19 Pandemic hit us, and some of plans had to be postponed… So we agreed straight away to focus on:
● Holding regular online peer-support meetings,
● Making accessible and EasyRead information,
● Fundraising so we can help isolated Disabled people including asylum seekers and older people to get access to the internet,
● Campaigning for our rights during Covid.

One of BRIL’s main wins, so far, has been getting NHS England to change their hospital visiting policy, by working alongside Disabled writer Fleur Perry and human rights layers from Rook Irwin Sweeney.

Where to next? A Disabled People’s Commission for Bristol...

BRIL is, and will always be, about working together. At BRIL’s first meetings, we were joined by people from groups including Bristol Disability Equality Forum, the Carers Support Centre, the Social Work Action Network, WECIL and Wiltshire CIL.

Along the way we have worked with arts groups including the Arkbound Foundation, Misfits Theatre Company and the Urban Word Collective.

We have been in contact with Disabled people’s organisations, user-led groups and migrants rights groups in Bristol, the South West and across the country.

We have also joined two national networks who have supported us to grow: ROFA (Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance) and NSUN (National Survivors and Users Network.) It was through NSUN that we secured funding to build this website and expand our online peer-support meetings.

For many years, people in Bristol have discussed different ways of bringing together the different Deaf, Disabled and mental health user-led groups in our area.

Since Covid-19, the need for this is ever more urgent. The pandemic has revealed the inequality and discrimination that Deaf people, Disabled people and mental health users/survivors face.  It was with this in mind that BRIL met recenty with members of Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel, to learn from their experiences.

We were then very pleased to hear at WECIL’s annual general meeting the Deputy Mayor for Bristol, Councillor Asher Craig, give her support for the idea of a Disabled People’s Commission for Bristol. This is something that many of us have talked about, and we know that people really want this to happen.

Until then, BRIL will carry on campaigning for our rights, being a place to share experiences and ideas… and reminding everyone that we all depend on each other!