The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

A Full Community Member

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute

Wolf Wolfensberger, who did much to further the concept of normalization in America, argued that the way we have viewed a person with a disability has historically shaped the structures, programs or social systems that we developed for that person.

His list of ways of viewing a person with a disability included ‘Object of Pity’ (We can trace such programs as Jerry Lewis’ telethons to this view.), ‘Holy Innocent’ (a person without sin and not to be held accountable for his/her actions), among others. However, the view that led to the most dramatic departure from normal life was to view that person as a ‘Menace to Society’ (Someone to be kept apart in a contained environment, usually in large residential centers) or an ‘Object of Dread’ (Who must be kept out of sight). Such negative views under gird a number of practices today and need to be examined and challenged.

We also have to do the conceptual work of putting forth alternative views. Some have included ‘a self determining person’, a ‘good worker’, a ‘fellow student’, and other positive views that support preferred practices today. Our own Community Participation Initiative follows from our view that the person with a disability is a full community member, not as a legal right which needs to be defended by legal means, but as a stance in life that is just a condition of being. Informed by this view we simply assume a rightful place for people with disabilities among us.

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