Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

The Inclusive City through the Lens of Quality of Life

Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

The Inclusive City through the Lens of Quality of Life

Article excerpt

This paper will refer to the story of Alex. Alex is a 27 year old performing artist and dancer. He was also born with Down syndrome. Alex has a creative and philosophical nature and is full of ideas and aspirations. His ambition is to become a famous citizen. He is well on his way towards reaching this goal. He has participated in several art exhibitions and performances. He was one of the actors in the popular Dutch soap series called 'Downisty'. Alex lives in his own apartment in a building for young adults with disabilities and travels independently within the city limits. He uses a personal support budget to pay for his formal sources of support outside of his residence. He receives informal social support from his single mother and his brother. His mother refers to raising Alex as a life-changing event. She states as follows: 'Society thinks that people with disabilities cost money.

That is true, but they also have a lot to offer. Alex enriched my life. Of course I also worry, because what will happen when I pass away? He is lucky to have a fantastic brother, who will hopefully take over my role' (1).


The concept of inclusion was first used and applied in the Nordic countries in the 1970s, referred to as 'normalization'. Normalization aimed at the integration of services for persons with disabilities within the general service system (4). In the Netherlands normalization started after the Second World War with the establishing of group homes situated within local communities. This was a step forward from housing persons with disabilities in large segregated institutions. Since the 1980s further inclusive reforms have taken place in the Netherlands. Segregated residential settings, special education and sheltered employment were increasingly questioned. Social policy has since focused mostly on the realization of respite and short term supports as well as integrated living arrangements within local communities (5).

Foreign experts have criticized the Dutch deinstitutionalization process for not keeping up with the developments in other Western countries (6). The Netherlands is one of the few countries in which the number of people with intellectual disabilities living in institutional settings has grown since 1980 (6,7).

A similar development can be found in the area of employment. Since the 1980s sheltered workshops have had to compete on the mainstream market. The demands on employees increased and vulnerable groups started to be excluded from this type of employment, leading to the establishment of new segregated day activity centres. From 2011, policy reforms stipulated that sheltered employment will only be available for people who can under no circumstances be competitively employed (5). Additionally, inclusion of children with disabilities in primary education currently forms the core of social policy in the field of education.

Present Dutch disability policies and practices are directed towards realizing inclusion. Citizens with and without disabilities are entitled to participate fully in the community as well as to be included in employment, education, living arrangements and leisure time activities. The Dutch government has reinforced the rights of people with disabilities by signing and planning the ratification of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)(2). Recent legislation reflects this commitment. The Participation Law (Participatiewet) that will come into force in 2014 promotes participation of people with disabilities in regular employment for example (3).

Despite these reforms, little attention has been paid to the promotion of social interactions between people with and without disabilities within the local communities (5). A concern is that the development of social interactions of persons with intellectual disabilities has been largely neglected. The social relations of persons with disabilities are often restricted to family members and professionals (5,8). …

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