Academic journal article Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry

Normalisation and Social Role Valorisation: Guidance for Human Service Development

Academic journal article Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry

Normalisation and Social Role Valorisation: Guidance for Human Service Development

Article excerpt


Following a brief account of 3 key aspects of normalisation, this paper describes the key features of social role valorisation and some social role valorisation applications to service development. Normalisation and social role valorisation are widely acknowledged as having strongly influenced reforms to services for people with learning disabilities in many parts of the world. Social role valorisation is a social theory with relevance to a wider group of people who experience social devaluation. The theory is based on an account of the common experiences (wounds) of devalued people and the development of 10 bodies of conceptual and empirical knowledge (themes) that provide explanation for social devaluation and generate strategies to counter it. Finally, the paper describes 2 applications of social role valorisation to service development, a service development and training instrument (programme analysis of service systems' implementation of normalisation goals) and a framework for describing, evaluating, and planning a human service (model coherency).

Key Words: Human services development, Normalisation, Social devaluation, Social role valorisation


Since the 1970s, normalisation and social role valorisation (SRV) have had a profound influence on the development of services for people with learning disabilities and other groups of people within human services, including people with psychiatric disabilities and elderly people. To a significant extent, these ideas have provided a foundation for the reform of institutional services and the development of the community living movement for people with learning disabilities in many countries, including the USA, Canada, Scandinavia, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. As a measure of the importance of normalisation and SRV, in a well-known Delphi study, 178 North American learning disability specialists were surveyed to determine the publications with the most impact during the past 50 years. (1) Two publications by Wolfensberger, a key figure in the development of both normalisation and SRV, were ranked first and 17th. (2,3) More than 100,000 copies of the first publication have been sold. There are translations of various SRV texts in French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and German. In 1999, the National Historic Preservation Trust on Mental Retardation, a consortium of 7 major learning disability organisations in the USA, selected Wolfensberger as one of 35 persons who have made the most significant contribution to learning disability in the world during the 20th century. The purposes of this paper are to describe the key features of both normalisation and SRV and to provide a description of some SRV applications to service development.


The normalisation principle emerged from Scandinavia in the late 1960s and was further developed in North America by Wolfensberger. (4) By the early 1970s, these ideas were influencing service developments in many parts of the world. Nirje was a key Scandinavian specialist in the early development of normalisation. (5) Normalisation largely evolved as a human rights-based, critical reaction to large institutions, the service model that dominated services for people with learning disabilities from the 19th century. Life for people with learning disabilities in such places was very deprived and abnormal compared with the lives of ordinary people. Poor conditions were documented in the literature from the 1960s in many parts of the world. Normalisation simply stated that these people should be enabled to lead lives like those of ordinary people. Note that normalisation did not talk about 'making people normal'. Amongst others, 3 powerful ideas underpinned normalisation and these contributed to some important service development principles.


Nirje wrote about the importance of people with learning disabilities being given access to the 'normal rhythms of life' in stark contrast to the way people lived and worked in institutional settings (Table 1). …

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