“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, September 20, 2004

Wolfensberger on social integration

One of my favorite books on social integration, is "Normalization, social integration, and community sevices" edited by Robert Flynn and Kathleen Nitsch (1980). In an article by Wolfensberger (The definition of normalization: Update, problems, disagreements, and misunderstandings), he makes the following comments.

" . . . in the long run, no good can come of any program, including normalization, that is not based on intimate, positive one-to-one relationships between ordinary (unpaid) citizens and those who are handicapped and who would otherwise be devalued."

One on one contact is reminiscent of the idea of matching families in churches with persons with disability within churches in a life partner kind of arrangement.

"Indeed, there is little within the implication of the Wolfensberger definition of normalization that is not empirically supportable, and one would almost have to go to metaphysical systems for more broadly applicable concepts. One such system might be radical Christianity, which would subsume much of normalization, but which would also reject some(not many) of its implications."

Interesting that Wolfensberger suggests "radical Christianity." I am unsure what he means by the term radical, but I suspect the implication is something other than what is typically observed in churches.

In a second article in the same book (Research, empiricism, and the principle of normalization), Wolfensberger states
"Thus, when devalued people are served in valued settings, where familiar and valued methods are used, and together with other valued people (i.e., associated with positive images), their social desirability in the eyes of others (i.e., the potential assimilators) will be increased.
The findings also imply that the development of highly valued personal traits, such as courtesy, friendliness, generosity, hospitality, sociability, and attractive appearance, in devalued persons is extremely important in moving them toward acceptance by members of society and therefore toward the integration onto the community."

This is similar to Berger and Neuhaus' 1977 article, "To empower people: The role of mediating structures in public policy" who define the concept "mediating structures." Mediating structures being people who help a devalued group by introducing them to those who can help them, or by helping them themselves. This is the track the church should be on. By our involvement, our service, our work, we validate the lives of persons with disability and in some ways make it "cool" to serve them. The more we embrace this notion as the church the better for persons with disability and the church.


No comments: