Wolf Wolfensberger (1934-2011) was a German-American academic who influenced disability policy and practice in the United States and elsewhere through his development of North American Normalization and Social Role Valorisation (SRV). SRV extended the work of his colleague Bengt Nirje in Europe on Normalisation. He later extended his approach in a radical anti-deathmaking direction by which is meant he exposed the Nazi death camps and targeting of the disabled, and contemporary practices which are now known to result in over 17 years differences in longevity based upon zipcode.
Born in Mannheim, Germany in 1934, Dr. Wolfensberger was sent to the countryside for two years during World War II, in order to escape the bombing. He emigrated to the USA in 1950 at 16 years of age. He studied Philosophy at Siena College in Memphis, Tennessee, received a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology at St. Louis University, and a PhD in Psychology from Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University) where he specialized in mental retardation and special education.
Wolfensberger worked at Muscatatuck State School ("State School" was a term for US intellectual disability total institutions) (Indiana) and interned at the E.R. Johnstone Training Center (New Jersey). He did a one year National Institute of Health research fellowship (1962–1963) at Maudsley Hospital, (London, England) studying with Dr. Jack Tizard and Dr. Neil O'Connor. Wolfensberger was the Director of Research (1963–1964) at Plymouth State Home and Training School (Michigan). He was a mental retardation research scientist at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute of the University of Nebraska Medical School in Omaha from 1964 to 1971.
Between 1971 and 1973, he was a visiting scholar at the National Institute on Mental Retardation in Toronto, Canada, and was the Director of the Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York until his passing in 2011. He was a friend and colleague of the School of Education at Syracuse University, and supported the awarding of Ph.D.s, "community services" contributions throughout the US and worldwide, and lent support to federal projects such as Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Integration (1985-1995, to Steven J. Taylor, also Professor Emeritus) for which he was not compensated.
Much of Wolfensberger’s work has been concerned with ideologies, structures and planning patterns of human service systems, especially concerning persons with intellectual disabilities and their families. He authored and co-authored more than 40 books and monographs, and wrote more than 250 chapters and articles. His books Changing Patterns in Residential Services for the Mentally Retarded, The Principle of Normalization, PASS and PASSING are probably best known since they formed the foundation for the 1970s students entering the workplace! His writing has been translated into 11 languages.
Dr. Wolfensberger was the originator of Citizen Advocacy and Social Role Valorization, and he was the foremost propagator of normalization in North America. In 1999, Wolf Wolfensberger was selected by representatives of seven major mental retardation organizations as one of 35 parties that had been the most impactful on mental retardation worldwide in the 20th century.
- Wolfensberger, W. (1972). The principle of Normalization in human services. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- Wolfensberger, W. (1998). A brief introduction to Social Role Valorization: A high-order concept for addressing the plight of societally devalued people, and for structuring human services. (3rd ed.). Syracuse, NY: Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry (Syracuse University).
- Wolfensberger, W. (2005). The new genocide of handicapped & afflicted people (3rd (rev) ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership & Change Agentry.
- Wolfensberger, W., & Zauha, H. (1973). Citizen Advocacy And Protective Services For The Impaired And Handicapped. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- Wolfensberger, W., & Glenn, L. (1975, reprinted 1978). Program Analysis of Service Systems (PASS): A method for the quantitative evaluation of human services: (3rd ed.). Handbook. Field Manual. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- Wolfensberger, W. & Thomas, S. (2007). PASSING: A tool for analyzing service quality according to Social Role Valorization criteria. Ratings manual (3rd rev. ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership & Change Agentry.
- Wolfensberger, W., Thomas, S., & Caruso, G. (1996). Some of the universal “good things of life” which the implementation of Social Role Valorization can be expected to make more accessible to devalued people. SRV/VRS: The International Social Role Valorization Journal/La Revue Internationale de la Valorisation des Roles Sociaux, 2(2), 12-14.
- Dr Wolf Wolfensberger events & information
- Memorials to the life and work of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger
- Plymouth State Home & Training School