Working Alongside People with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities

Normalisation and Social Role Valorisation

The principles of normalization and social role valorization have had a large impact on disability services in Australia. For a period of time in the 1980’s these ideas lead the policies and procedures developed by many organizations and continue to influence many advocacy organisaitons around Australia who practice social advocacy. There was a time during the early 1990’s that this theory influenced the production of disability policy in Australian and many workers in disability organisaitons went to training events to learn how to implement the theory into practice.

Normalisation was developed in Scandinavia by Karl Grunewald and Bengt Nirge and in Sweden by Nils Bank-Mikkelsen (in Cocks and Stehlik 1996: 19)

The normalisation principle means that you act right when making available to all people with intellectual or other impairments or disabilities patterns of life and conditions of everyday living which are as close as possible to or indeed the same as the regular circumstances and ways of life of their communities These ideas were extended by Wolfensberger and Thomas from the 1970’s and they went on to develop tools that evaluate human services (PASSING) which complimented the theory of what they came to term Social Role Valorisation (SRV) is
“The application of empirical knowledge to the shaping of the current or potential social roles of a party (i.e., person, group, or class) -- primarily by means of enhancement of the party’s competencies & image -- so that these are, as much as possible, positively valued in the eyes of the perceivers”

(Wolfensberger & Thomas, 2005 in O’Brien, 2006: 1).

The work of Wolfensberger and Thomas is seen as what has influence the ‘deinstitutionalisation’ of people with intellectual disabitlies around Australia. Within disability advocacy organisations there is no coherence about the effectiveness of this theory and there continues to be a divide between organisations who, adhere to social advocacy while others draw on the notion of human rights advocacy.

While it is often expressed that deinstitutionalisation followed the principles of SRV, upon deeper understanding of the theory, it is evident that the process of moving people out of large institutions did not follow the principles of providing people with valued social roles. Economics has driven disability policy in the same way that other social policy has been affected by notions of market forces and economic rationalism. Deinstitutionalisation failed on most levels to provide people with socially valued roles when they left the institution and have moved into smaller institutions in the community which have gone on to resemble their larger parent institutions in the model of care provided.

If you want to find out more information about SRV John Armstrong, Peter Millier and Jane Sherwin are senior trainers in Australia and they can be contacted via Many people, who took up the ideas embedded in SRV, went on to make up what is loosely called the inclusion movement.

Read more here > Inclusion
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