Quality of Life as Context for Planning and Evaluation of Services for People with Disabilities

By Dennis, Ruth E.; Williams, Wes et al. | Exceptional Children, May 1993 | Go to article overview

Quality of Life as Context for Planning and Evaluation of Services for People with Disabilities


Dennis, Ruth E., Williams, Wes, Giangreco, Michael F., Cloninger, Chigee J., Exceptional Children


Every person is like all other persons, like some persons and like no other persons. (Speight, Myers, Cox, & Highlen, 1991, p. 32)

In the past decade, quality of life has emerged as an important theme in planning and evaluating services for people with disabilities (Goode, 1990; Schalock, Keith, Hoffman, & Karen, 1989). The theme is reflected in programs and policies intended to enhance full community membership and participation. There is a growing emphasis on the creation of formal and informal support networks to meet the needs of people with disabilities and to ensure they have a quality of life that is congruent with how that concept is defined by the individual and society (Fabian, 1991; Roessier, 1990). This article presents definitions of quality of life, explores the concept from a framework based on "optimal theory" of personal well-being, surveys the source and use of research, and discusses implications for planning and evaluation.

DEFINITIONS OF QUALITY OF LIFE

The term quality of life is emerging ever more frequently in professional literature; in public policy; and in the popular language of business, consumer satisfaction, advertising, health, the environment, politics, and education. There is no single definition of the term, but researchers have agreed that any assessment of life quality is essentially subjective (Blatt, 1987; Edgerton, 1990; Schalock, 1990a; Taylor & Racino, 1991). Definitions offered recently (Schalock & Bogale, 1990) have included the following:

* Satisfaction with one's lot in life and a sense of contentment with one's experiences of the world (Taylor & Bogden, 1990).

* A sense of personal satisfaction that is more than contentment and happiness but less than "meaning" or fulfillment (Coulter, 1990).

* A general well-being that is synonymous with overall life satisfaction, happiness, contentment, or success (Stark & Goldsbury, 1990).

* The ability to adopt a lifestyle that satisfies one's unique wants and needs (Karen, Lambour, & Greenspan, 1990).

* Blatt (1987) emphasized the temporal, relative, and individual nature of the definition of quality of life:

There will be necessarily empty places, as it is equally certain that there will be times when there seems to be too much.... The brimming cup has little to do with the size of the cup or the temporary nature of its contents.... It is all in the mind and, for sure, in the soul. (p. 358)

Goode (1990) reported several principles regarding quality of life (QOL) for people with disabilities. Consumers with disabilities and service providers identified the following principles:

1. QOL for persons with disabilities is made up

of the same factors and relationships that have

been shown to be important for persons without

disabilities. 2. QOL is experienced when a person's basic

needs are being met and when he or she has

the opportunity to pursue and achieve goals in

major life settings. 3. The meaning of QOL in major life settings can

be consensually validated by a wide array of

persons representing the viewpoints of persons

with disabilities, including their families,

professionals, service providers, advocates

and others. 4. The QOL of an individual is intrinsically related

to the QOL of other persons in her or his

environment. 5. QOL of a person reflects the cultural heritage

of the person and of those surrounding him or

her. (p. 54)

Many researchers have concurred that quality of life for people with disabilities comprises the same factors as quality of life for people without disabilities (Blatt, 1987; Devereux, 1988; Goode, 1990; Schalock, 1990b; Tumbull & Brunk, 1990; Weick, 1988). However, Taylor and Racino (1991) noted that philosophers throughout the ages have failed to agree on the meaning of quality of life. …

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