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|Died||27 February 2011 (aged 76–77)|
|Education||B.A., philosophy, Siena College, 1955|
M.A., psychology and education, Saint Louis University, 1957
Ph.D., psychology, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1962
|Occupation||Professor of Special Education and Director of the Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry at Syracuse University|
|Known for||disability rights advocacy, normalization principle, social role valorization|
|The Principle of Normalization in Human Services (1972)|
|Spouse(s)||Nancy Artz Wolfensberger|
|Children||Margaret Sager, Joan Wolfensberger, Paul Wolfensberger|
|Parent(s)||Friedrich and Helene Wolfensberger|
Wolf Peregrin Joachim Wolfensberger, Ph.D. (1934–2011) was a German-American academic who influenced disability policy and practice through his development of North American Normalization and social role valorization (SRV). SRV extended the work of his colleague Bengt Nirje in Europe on the normalization of people with disabilities. He later extended his approach in a radical anti-deathmaking direction: he spoke about the Nazi death camps and their targeting of the disabled, and contemporary practices which contribute to deathmaking.
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, Indiana ("state school" was a term for US intellectual disability total institutions) and interned at the E.R. Johnstone Training Center, Bordentown, New Jersey. He did a one-year National Institute of Health research fellowship (1962–1963) at Maudsley Hospital, (London, England) studying with Jack Tizard and 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 upstate New York until his death 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.
Contributions to the field
Wolf Wolfensberger was a brilliant thinker, lucid writer, studious life-long scholar, and compelling teacher. Many people who attended his teaching events, seminars, and training workshops, or even only read his publications, were commonly deeply affected by them, often in life-changing ways. By these means, he made an impressive number of significant contributions to the broad sphere of human services, most particularly in regard to serving people who are socially devalued or highly vulnerable to becoming so. To be socially devalued means being perceived by others as of lesser value, and then in consequence, being treated by them in ways that are always hurtful, often deeply wounding, and sometimes even fatally so. Wolfensberger helped to address this reality by raising awareness of its origins, nature, and manifestations, and also by elucidating the means by which it could be addressed by those most directly affected by it, i.e., their families, friends, and allies, the devalued people themselves, and those who serve upon them in formal or informal service roles. His major contributions are summarized below.
A brief note on language usage
Wolfensberger was exceedingly thoughtful and disciplined about almost everything he did or said, and this analytic manner included his use of language. Over the course of his long career, he did change his oral and written language several times and over a number of things. But he did so only after careful consideration governed by logical, well-reasoned rationales, consistent with clearly articulated ideals and the norms of ordinary discourse. He was not persuaded that certain terms, labels, and phraseologies considered by some as more enlightened, "current", "acceptable" or politically correct were positive changes or necessarily better and did not surrender to pressures to use such terminology. Wolfensberger wrote and spoke quite a bit about this topic, even beyond the article in which he explains his thinking and rationales (Wolfensberger, 2002) but to little avail, even though many consider his teachings in this area as another of his important contributions to the field. In any case, in documenting his work, as is done here, it is historical revisionism to use language he would not have used. Therefore, the sections that follow that do document his work will use terms that some may consider old-fashioned, out of date or worse.
The principle of normalization
Wolfensberger first rose to international prominence through his leadership in the movement to establish Normalization in North America and elsewhere, beginning in the late-1960s. He did not "invent" normalization but he, more than anyone else, explained and shepherded it into prominence as a major service paradigm, especially in North America. The original normalization concept pioneered by Niels Erik Bank-Mikkelsen as "letting the mentally retarded live as close to normal as possible" was established in Danish law in 1959 (Bank-Mikkelsen, 1980). It was later defined as the "normalization principle" by Bengt Nirje of Sweden (Nirje, 1969). Wolfensberger reworked, systematized, sociologized, and generalized the concept beyond mental retardation to virtually all types of human services (Wolfensberger, 1972).
Wolfensberger's The Principle of Normalization in Human Services (1972) and his companion work, the service quality evaluation tool Program Analysis of Service Systems, or PASS (Wolfensberger & Glenn, 1975), together extensively explicate normalization in terms of its implications to service provision. In doing so, these publications contributed decisively to an international wave of service change away from segregating people from typical society, and putting them into large institutions with grossly abnormal living conditions (bad beyond what most "normal" people were able to even imagine), and toward supporting their integration into normative community settings and activities.
In addition to publishing, Wolfensberger also established a teaching culture to systematically disseminate the principle of normalization, mainly through the medium of PASS, to aspiring change agents, human service workers, family members, and community leaders, via intensive lengthy training workshops given throughout North America and, to a lesser extent, Europe and Australasia. Wolfensberger's highly articulated version of normalization became a foundation for service training, practice, policy, and legislation, particularly in North America and Great Britain, where normalization thinking fueled fundamental changes in patterns of service provision, though often normalization was not explicitly attributed as the source of such changes (Kendrick, 1999; Race, 1999).
Social Role Valorization
Normalization had many strengths as a framework for service provision, but it was often misinterpreted, and limited in that it lacked an unambiguous ultimate purpose. Wolfensberger's work to rectify these drawbacks eventually led him to leave Normalization behind, and to formulate a more incisive approach—which he called Social Role Valorization (SRV)—to address the reality of social devaluation. Thus, there is a conceptual connection between Normalization and SRV, in that SRV has its roots in normalization as well as in the empiricism of fields such as sociology, psychology, and education (e.g., Wolfensberger, 1983).
The basic premise of SRV is that people are much more likely to experience the "good things in life" (Wolfensberger, Thomas, & Caruso, 1996) if they hold valued social roles than if they do not. Therefore, the major goal of SRV is to create or support socially valued roles for people in their society, because if a person holds valued social roles, that person is highly likely to receive from society those good things in life that the society has available to give, and that it can convey, or at least the opportunities for obtaining these. In other words, other people are almost automatically going to convey all sorts of good things to a person who they see in societally valued roles—at least those good things that are within the resources and norms of society.
In regard to what the good things in life are, there exists a near-universal consensus. To mention only a few major examples, they include being accorded dignity, respect, acceptance; a sense of belonging; an education, and the development and exercise of one's capacities; a voice in the affairs of one's community and society; opportunities to participate; a decent material standard of living; an at least normative place to live; and opportunities for work and self-support.
Wolfensberger defined SRV as:
"The application of empirical knowledge to the shaping of the current or potential social roles of a party (i.e., person, group, or class)--primarily by means of enhancement of the party's competencies & image--so that these are, as much as possible, positively valued in the eyes of the perceivers." (Wolfensberger & Thomas, 2005)
SRV is especially relevant to two classes of people in society: those who are already societally devalued, and those who are at heightened risk of becoming devalued. In any society, there are groups and classes who are at value risk or already devalued due to impairment, age, poverty, or other characteristics that are devalued in and by their society or some of its subsystems. They are far more likely than other members of society to be treated badly, and to be subjected to a systematic—and possibly lifelong—pattern of negative experiences.
The reality that not all people are positively valued in their society makes SRV so important (Kendrick, 1994). It not only can help to prevent bad things from happening to socially vulnerable people, but can also increase the likelihood that they will experience the good things in life, things which are usually not accorded to people who are devalued in society. For them, many or most good things are beyond reach, denied, withheld, or at least harder to attain. Instead, what might be called "the bad things in life" are imposed upon them, such as:
1. Being perceived and interpreted as "deviant," due to their negatively-valued differentness. The latter could consist of physical or functional impairments, low competence, a particular ethnic identity, certain behaviors or associations, skin color, and many others.
2. Being rejected by community, society, and even family and services.
3. Being cast into negative social roles, some of which can be severely negative, such as "subhuman," "menace," and "burden on society."
4. Being put and kept at a social or physical distance, the latter most commonly by segregation.
5. Having negative images (including language) attached to them.
6. Being the object of abuse, violence, and brutalization, and even being made dead.
This is why having at least some valued social roles is so important. A person who fills valued social roles is likely to be treated much better than if he or she did not have these, or than other people who have the same devalued characteristics but do not have equally valued social roles. There are several important reasons why this is so. One is that a person who has valued roles is more likely to also have valued and competent allies or defenders who can mitigate the impacts of devaluation or protect the person from these. Also, when a person holds valued social roles, attributes of theirs that might otherwise be viewed negatively are much more apt to be put up with, or overlooked, or "dismissed" as relatively unimportant.
As with Normalization and its related assessment tool PASS, there is a similar SRV-based evaluation tool called PASSING (Wolfensberger & Thomas, 2007). Both SRV and PASSING are taught regularly in North America, Australia, Europe, South America, and India. International SRV conferences are held regularly, and there is an SRV publication, The SRV Journal. However, the Normalization movement largely faded away after it was superseded by SRV. It is hardly taught anywhere, but maintains a presence in law in certain Scandinavian countries.
While SRV and Normalization are only two of Wolfensberger's important contributions, they are particularly outstanding. If an award were given for the single most important intellectual development in the field of human service in the past one hundred years, normalization and SRV would have to be two of the top contenders. In fact, recognitions along these lines were given. In a poll of mental retardation leaders, Wolfensberger's 1972 book on normalization was selected as the most influential book in the field since 1940 from among 11,330 books and articles, and his 1983 article that introduced SRV (Wolfensberger, 1983) was cited as the seventeenth most influential publication in the field (Heller, Spooner, Enright, Haney, & Schilit, 1991). In 1999, Wolfensberger was selected by the National Historic Preservation Trust on Mental Retardation as one of 36 parties that had the most impact on mental retardation worldwide in the 20th century. Wolfensberger was identified in 2004 and again in 2008 in the ISI Web of Science database as the author of the most frequently-cited article in Mental Retardation (i.e., Wolfensberger, 1983), the journal of what was then the American Association on Mental Retardation, and is now the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. In 2008, Wolfensberger's work on normalization and SRV was identified by Exceptional Parent Magazine as one of "the 7 wonders of the world of disabilities" (Hollingsworth and Apel, 2008). Besides these recognitions, much has also been written about: (a) the nature of SRV and its application to people who are socially and societally devalued due to impairment, age, poverty or other deviant conditions (see, for example, Wolfensberger, 1995, 1998, 2000, and especially, Wolfensberger and Thomas, 2007), (b) the importance of SRV (e.g., see Flynn & Lemay, 1999; Thomas, 1999; Kendrick, 1994), and (c) the relationship of SRV to normalization (e.g., see Lemay, 1995; Thomas, 1999; and Wolfensberger, 1983). What all of this partially—but clearly—attests is that a great many people have appreciated the importance of Wolfensberger's work. Many individuals and families have attested to how much they have benefitted from Wolfensberger's thinking and teaching, and some have published testimonials to this effect (e.g., Duggan, 2010; Park, 1999).
The Developmental model
The phrase, the ‘developmental model’ has been used in a variety of contexts such as counselling psychology (Bader and Pearson, 1988), psychosocial stages (Erikson, 1994), and intercultural sensitivity (Bennett, 1986). All iterations refer to models built on an assumption of developmental growth possibilities, where individuals incrementally gain knowledge, skills, and self-awareness within particular aspects of their lives.
Efforts to establish a developmental approach to educating individuals with mental impairments began over two hundred years ago. Based on his work with Victor (the so-called ‘wild boy of Aveyron’, Itard, 1801), Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1774-1838) posited that human growth has distinct developmental phases and that children need stimulation in order to develop. Édouard Séguin (1812-1880) studied with Itard and extended his work. Séguin created physical and sensory activities to systematically develop mental processes. He relied on a series of small sequential steps to teach skills to children with developmental and intellectual impairments. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) read Itard’s and Séguin’s works. Combined with her own extensive observations of children, she developed the first model of development pertaining to children with mental impairments.
Montessori articulated a number of principles that summarized her approach. These included the need for stimulating and purposeful activity, utilizing those periods when children were open to learning certain skills, recognizing the inherent willingness of all children to learn, and the potential that each child possesses. She identified the link between emotional development and the child’s ability to learn, and the importance of supporting development in very young children. She also emphasized the prepared environment: teachers set up specified materials and activities for children, and then encouraged and guided the children to explore these materials and activities. Children were encouraged to be independent within a prepared and structured environment that elicited growth.
The Developmental Model in Normalization and Social Role Valorization Theory
All of these elements were incorporated by Wolfensberger into his conceptualization of the Developmental Model. Social Role Valorization Theory (SRV), as described by Thomas (1999), notes that we are affected by what we have learned, both formally and informally, about others and ourselves. We then act on these assumptions and expectations. If we hold positive expectations about the possibilities for the learning, growth, and adaptation of others, then we are more likely to provide relevant opportunities for them. Conversely, if we hold negative or devaluing expectancies, we are more likely to provide fewer opportunities for growth and development, and more readily accept lower performance and contribution. As demonstrated in the SRV theme of unconsciousness, we may be largely unaware of the expectations we hold of others. Wolfensberger’s Developmental Model provides a framework of expectations about the possibilities of growth, development and the capacities of individuals.
A key aspect of the Developmental Model is a belief that, “…all humans possess a tremendous capacity for growth” (Thomas, 1999, p. 154). As Thomas noted, the Developmental Model as such was first highlighted by Bengt Nirje in a 1969 publication edited by Kugel and Wolfensberger. Nirje made the point that normalization means “…an opportunity to undergo normal developmental experiences of the life cycle” (Nirje, 1992, p 49). Children need a warm and nurturing family, with a few significant adults who provide love, security and “opportunities for identification.” School-aged children and youth need an education that is challenging and provides opportunities to discover their interests. Growing into adulthood, individuals move away from their parental home, expand their competencies, and take their place in the larger world. Finally, old age “…consists for most people of contacts with the familiar settings and acquaintances that have given life so much of its content and meaning” (Nirje, 1992, p50). In the Kugel and Wolfensberger (1969) text, Wolfensberger provided examples of how the Developmental Model might be enacted within different environments and settings. He included the idea that individuals would also be taught to use typical controls in the environment (e.g., thermostats) and be exposed to typical risks (such as stairs, hot water, or electrical appliances). Reviewing the early work of Wolfensberger in setting up services in Nebraska, the use of the Developmental Model was identified as a key component of service development and delivery (Evans, Stork & Phillips-Stork, 2002).
In addition to the assumption about capacity for growth, the Developmental Model provides a framework, or conceptual schema, that clarifies assumptions about what the world and human nature are like, a way to formulate problems, and approaches that can be taken to effectively address those issues or problems. Through the Developmental Model, (Wolfensberger, 2013, Wolfensberger & Thomas, 2015) suggest that human beings achieve greater well-being when engaged in meaningful and relevant activity, and have more growth potential than is apparent in any one person, or elicited by others. This means that the full growth potential of any person cannot be predicted, especially if the person has not had optimal opportunities for learning and growth. Development must be facilitated, elicited, and fostered. The importance of the environment in communicating what is expected of individuals, and facilitating learning, is also stressed by Wolfensberger (2013) and Wolfensberger & Thomas (2015). The physical settings, schedules, routines, activities and interactions, the equipment that is available can all contribute to growth of the individuals who are served. The groupings of service recipients and staff, and the preparedness of the staff to teach valued skills, are also crucial for development. Further, a service, program or intervention will have a greater impact when it is started as early as possible, and as soon after an impairment has manifested or been recognized. When relieved from long term trauma and fear, individuals can make dramatic leaps in their growth. Individuals benefit if they receive instruction through the least restrictive service or setting possible. Finally, no matter how effective a pedagogy or intervention, there will always a be a better way, waiting to be identified.
Implementation of the Developmental Model
The Developmental Model is equally relevant to individuals of all ages and abilities. For those who have faced lowered expectations and opportunities to be challenged to grow and develop, it takes on additional significance. As the growth potential of certain groups of people is so often underestimated, an implication of the Developmental Model is to be assertive in our expectations of what people can learn. Wolfensberger suggests two broad strategies for action that may be taken when trying to implement the Developmental Model: the reduction of obstacles to competent functioning, and increasing the individual’s repertoire of functional skills and capacities.
Reduce obstacles. Reducing or removing obstacles to an individual’s competent functioning might include:
• (re-)structuring the physical environment so as to enable or facilitate adaptive behaviour (e.g., physical accessibility);
• (re-)structuring the social environment (e.g., clarify expected behaviours, provide adaptive models for imitation);
• Reducing bodily obstacles (e.g., positioning, expand range of motion, etc.);
• supplying appropriate prosthetics and other adaptive devices; and
• addressing motivation.
Increase functional repertoire. Actively teach individuals relevant and valued skills, knowledge, habits and disciplines that will serve them well for valued social roles.
With the emphasis in SRV on social roles, and how social roles can affect the perceptions of others, which in turn affects the opportunities that individuals might or might not have, the Developmental Model guides both what individuals need to learn and how they might learn the various skills needed to competently get and keep valued social roles (Wolfensberger, 2013).
In order to help people get and keep relevant valued social roles, ensuring that they have enough relevant and challenging opportunities to develop the competencies needed for these social roles becomes essential. Wolfensberger (2013) provides the following points regarding the implementation of the Developmental Model.
- Consciously examine one’s own assumptions/expectations/beliefs about the individuals one is concerned about.
- Encourage and support others (service providers, family members, and the individuals themselves) to do the same.
- Consciously adopt mind sets and expectations of possibility, growth, and learning for those one is concerned about. Wolfensberger famously exemplified this personally by holding consistently high and challenging expectations for the staff, associates, and students who worked with him.
- Acknowledge that we are not easily able to predict the potential of any one person until all avenues for growth and development have been assertively pursued with and on behalf of an individual.
- Ensure that individuals receive the best possible opportunities for growth and learning.
The Developmental Model is applicable to any and all people, no matter their type or degree of impairment or apparent capacity: it is optimistic, but realistically so, about human potential and possibility. While others highlighted the importance of high expectations of individuals with disabilities, and subsequently developed a variety of effective and relevant pedagogical approaches and strategies, Wolfensberger demonstrated how the use of the Developmental Model could enable, establish, enhance, maintain and/or defend valued social roles for anyone, but would be especially relevant for people who are at value-risk which is the penultimate goal of Social Role Valorization towards realizing the ‘good things in life’ (Wolfensberger, Thomas, and Caruso, 1996).
Bader, E. & Pearson, P. (1988). In quest of the mythical mate: A developmental approach to diagnosis and treatment in couples therapy. Brunner & Mazel. Philadelphia, PA.
Bennett, M. (1986). A developmental approach to training for intercultural sensitivity. International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 10(2). 179-195.
Erikson, E. (1994). Identity and the life cycle. Norton & Company. New York, NY.
Evans, Joseph, H., Stork, Warren, & Phillips-Stork, Elaine (2002). Setting the course: The 1960s. In Robert L. Schalock & David L. Braddock (Eds.). Out of the darkness and into the light: Nebraska’s experience with mental retardation. American Association on Mental Retardation. Washington D.C. USA.
Nirje, B. (1969). The normalization principle and its human management implications. In R. Kugel & W. Wolfensberger Changing Patterns in Residential Services for the mentally retarded. President’s Committee on Mental Retardation. Washington, D.C.
Nirje, B. (1992). The normalization principle – implications and comments. In B. Nirje, The Normalization Principle Papers. Centre for Handicap Research. Uppsala University. Uppsala, Sweden.
Race, David. (2019). Social Role Valorization and the English Experience. Presses Valor Press. Plantagenet, ON.
Thomas, S. (1990). Historical background and evolution of normalization- related and SRV-related training. In R.J. Flynn & R.A. Lemay A Quarter-Century of normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and Impact. University of Ottawa Press. Ottawa, ON.
Wolfensberger, W. (2013). A brief introduction to Social Role Valorization: A high-order concept for addressing the plight of societally devalued people, and for structuring human services. (4th ed.). Valor Press. Plantagenet, Ontario.
Wolfensberger, W. & Thomas, S. (2015). PASSING: A tool for analyzing service quality according to Social Role Valorization criteria. 3rd revised edition. Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry. Syracuse University. Syracuse, N.Y.
Wolfensberger, W., Thomas, S. & Caruso, G. (1996). Some of the universal ‘good things in life’ which the implementation of Social Role Valorization can be expected to make more accessible to devalued people. The International Social Role Valorization Journal 2(2), 12-14.
PASS and PASSING
PASS. When, after 1968, Wolf Wolfensberger began to develop the ideas that became his definition of the principle of normalization, he and his colleagues at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute operationalized that developing principle. They intended to render normalization applicable, in detail, to actual human service settings and organizations and to offer users the means to define and assess the service quality of human service programs. The first version of PASS (Program Analysis of Service Systems) was an early 1970 unpublished mimeograph edition aimed to direct money, which was available for new service development in Nebraska, to those proposals most in accord with normalization (Wolfensberger, 1999). The first published edition of PASS, sometimes called PASS 2, followed Wolfensberger's move from Nebraska to Canada's National Institute on Mental Retardation (NIMR) and NIMR's publication of Wolfensberger's seminal book, The Principle of Normalization in Human Services, in 1972.
PASS says, in effect, that a program guided by the principle of normalization must consider several important sub-ideas. A program adheres to normalization when it:
- Encourages and enables the integration of people who use services within the valued culture;
- Uses age- and culture appropriate ways to interpret service users and to structure their experience;
- Organizes its responses to service users so that the responses fit each individual and are internally consistent in meeting each individual's needs;
- Orients its efforts toward the growth/development of each service user; and
- Carries out its activity in enhancing and positively interpreting settings. (Wolfensberger and Glenn, 1973, pp. 3–4)
PASS provides, within each of these sub-ideas, specific questions (called "ratings") that users of PASS can answer about a particular program after a careful examination of that program. Sixty-eight per cent of PASS ratings directly address issues specific to the normalization principle. The remaining ratings deal with issues that are important to programs of quality (e.g., administration, staffing, governance, finance) but not directly pertinent to normalization.
Here is an example of a PASS rating—one focused on an aspect of normalization. The rating, "Age-Appropriate Activities, Routines, and Rhythms," is based on the fact that human service programs tend to impose certain portrayals or interpretations (i.e., of the service recipients) and certain structures (e.g., how time is used, via schedules, etc.) on people who use services. "Age-Appropriate Activities, Routines, and Rhythms" asks raters to judge whether the activities planned for people and the patterns-of-life arranged for them (routines, rhythms) are similar to those of valued people of the same age. PASS offers six possible "levels" of judgment for this rating, with "Level 6" as the highest. If this issue gets a "low" rating from a PASS team, then PASS says that service recipients are more likely to be misinterpreted (e.g., thought of as childlike) by others and to have their time be weakly used. (Wolfensberger and Glenn, 1975, pp. 25–26)
Wolfensberger and his colleague Linda Glenn designed PASS so that teams of trained raters could make valid judgments about the quality of an assessed program vis-à-vis the normalization principle. The design of PASS included weighted ranges of scores attached to each "rating," enabling both the second and third editions of PASS (Wolfensberger and Glenn, 1973, 1975) to render a quantitative evaluation of service programs and proposals. Because PASS evaluations yielded those numerical scores (and sub-scores related to particular issues prominent in the instrument), PASS made it possible for users to compare service programs: (a) either the same service across time, e.g., from one year to the next; (b) within a given service field; or (c) across different fields, e.g., residential services for people with developmental disabilities with residential services for people who are aging.
The ability to conduct useful and valid evaluations of human service programs by means of PASS depends on the availability of trained and experienced raters. Wolfensberger early developed the design for multi-day workshops to introduce participants to PASS. The design of PASS workshops incorporated three requirements: ( a) the training must help learners understand and manage a complex set of issues; (b) conscious attention must be paid, in the training, to the examination of the critical role of values in human services; and (c) through the practicum portion of each training, workshop participants must be placed in a position to experience the ideology and ideological conflicts often hidden beneath the surface of human service practice (Wolfensberger and Glenn, 1975). From the start, each PASS training workshop encompassed five very full days, with two days of didactic presentation about normalization and PASS, two intense days in practicum fieldwork at actual service programs, and a final day of reporting and explicating findings (Thomas, 1999). Participants were usually exhausted at the end. Many, however, marked their learning at those workshops as the means to acquiring new eyes about human service values and practices. One participant at an early PASS workshop recalled an appreciation that PASS "took a stance" about values issues—that it "didn't aspire to moral neutrality" (Osburn, 1999).
Between the publication of PASS 2 in 1973 and the development and consequent shift to the use of PASSING in the 1980s, thousands of copies of PASS were sold and thousands of people took part in PASS workshops—especially across the English-speaking (and parts of the French-speaking) world. (Thomas, S., 1999)
PASSING. PASSING originated as an effort to enable normalization-based assessments of service programs that were easier to do than was PASS 3. The idea was that additional and more understandable explanatory text would make a wider use of normalization-related evaluation more likely. The first (unpublished) version of PASSING (Thomas and Wolfensberger, 2007) was used only in Dane County, Wisconsin. The first published edition appeared (with NIMR again as publisher) in 1983. Workshops to train raters and leaders about PASSING began with the availability of the 1983 edition. PASSING workshops were initially structured in a fashion similar to earlier PASS 3 events, with adjustments having been made to account for differences between the tools.
The original and the 1983 published editions of PASSING had Wolfensberger's definition of normalization at their core. At about the same time, however, Wolfensberger, acting on long-standing misgivings about normalization, reconceptualized it as Social Role Valorization—often shortened to "SRV" (Wolfensberger, 1983). Certainly the importance of aiming at valued social roles for people subject to social devaluation had become more prominent in the definition of normalization before SRV was conceptualized. Wolfensberger and his colleague Susan Thomas prepared a third edition of PASSING, fully based on SRV, which was published in 2007 and is still in full use (Wolfensberger and Thomas, 2007).
PASSING is based on the assumption that the occupation of valued social roles by those who use services is the desired outcome of a service program. PASSING contends that the attainment of valued social roles by people who are socially vulnerable is the key to their getting the "good things of life." According to PASSING, two avenues lead to the acquisition of valued social roles (p. 1-2). First, a person takes on valued roles if her social image is enhanced—if she is seen and continues to be seen positively by others. A major part (sixty-four per cent) of PASSING rests on the assertion that positive perceptions of people who use services are influenced in major ways by the often-unconscious things that service agencies do or do not do. PASSING serves as a tool to foster analysis—and correction when necessary—of practices that bear on the social image of those who use services. For example, the PASSING rating titled "Image Projection of Service Activities & Activity Timing" asks for a judgment about whether a service engages its recipients in ways (i.e., activities, etc.) that all match cultural expectations for such things for people in general and for people of the same age as recipients, so as to avoid reinforcement of already existing negative stereotypes about those recipients (Wolfensberger and Thomas, 2007, pp. 215–224).
The second avenue toward valued social roles involves active work to develop the personal competency of each person using services. Thirty-six per cent of PASSING's ratings focus on efforts by an assessed program to help a service recipient develop and demonstrate personal competency that is important to him and to others. Here is an example of how PASSING enables judgments about a program's effort to develop recipients' capacities: the rating "Intensity of Activities & Efficiency of Time Use." That rating asks PASSING teams to make judgments about several related issues, among which is the question of whether the assessed program offers activities (of high demand; reflecting high expectations) that are potent and challenging in relation to recipients' likely potential. A low "level" on this rating is an indicator of weak effort by the program to lift the personal competencies of those who use the service. (Wolfensberger, and Thomas, 2007, pp. 403–412).
Like PASS before it, PASSING has been translated into French, making it available as a primary tool for teaching about SRV not only in North America but also increasingly in other areas around the world.
The construct of service model coherency
One of Wolfensberger's more important but under-utilized contributions to service design, operation, and quality is the construct of "model coherency" which developed over time. It began in 1968 when the Nebraska state legislature enacted a new mental retardation service reform bill and provided service funding. Wolfensberger and other key actors in shaping this reform wanted to see the newly available monies shifted away from institutional services toward a new system of community services based on normalization ideas. They wrote a set of service standards to judge applications for funds, which included a standard called "specialization" that implied such things as separation of the domiciliary function, and smaller and more dispersed service settings that each accommodated people with different needs.
When the service evaluation tool PASS came out in 1973 (Wolfensberger & Glenn, 1973), it contained a rating also called "Specialization," which required that "the service provides a coherent program in which a number of variables combine harmoniously so as to meet the specific needs of each client at that particular time of his life." Note the word coherent in that definition. In the revised 1975 edition of PASS (Wolfensberger & Glenn, 1975, reprinted 1978), the "Specialization" rating was expanded and its name changed to "Model Coherency." Thus, Wolfensberger's initial concept of specialization was the conceptual parent of his construct of model coherency.
Every service has a model, i.e., an overarching schema or framework according to which it is organized, shaped, and enacted, though not necessarily consciously so. There are many different service models. Some of the more familiar ones are the medical model, the social casework model, the correctional model, the religious reform model, the military/disciplinary model, the developmental model, and others (Wolfensberger, 2013, p. 145). There are several component elements to a service model. One is the underlying assumptions (e.g., about the people to be served and their needs and the best way to address these). Another is the content that is delivered to presumably address the identified needs, and a third is the various processes through which the content is delivered and that reflect the underlying assumptions. The service processes include the service setting, the way the people served are selected and grouped, the identities of the servers, the activities and methods and "tools" used to deliver the content, and the language that is used to refer to all this. This combination of elements constitutes a service model, and then models get applied to actual persons. If the model elements fit together, it is said to be a coherent model; but if there are elements that do not fit well or mesh with each other, and if the model or elements thereof do not fit the needs of the people served, then there is some type of model incoherency.
A shorthand way of phrasing the concept of model coherency is that it asks several questions: (1) who are the people, and what are the service assumptions about them; (2) what do they need, and what are the service assumptions about these; (3) what content is relevant to address that need; and (4) what are the best processes for addressing that need in a way that is most potent, effective, and image-enhancing.
Model Coherency is the most highly weighted of the 50 ratings in PASS, and research has shown it to be the rating most closely correlated to a service's overall quality, meaning that a service's overall performance on PASS usually closely parallels how it rates on model coherency (see Flynn, 1975). In other words, it is an empirical fact that a model coherent service is almost always a programmatically sound service in all sorts of other ways.
Model coherency was mostly taught through the 1970s and 1980s via the PASS training culture. There were hundreds of PASS workshops, and thousands of participants. But by the 1990s, as the PASS training culture began to fade, so did the teaching of model coherency. Starting in the early 1980s, Wolfensberger's teaching of normalization also shifted to Social Role Valorization, which led to a new service evaluation tool called PASSING (Wolfensberger & Thomas, 1983, 2007). In PASSING, there is no Model Coherency rating, but most of the constituent parts of model coherency are assessed by separate ratings. So, as PASSING began to be disseminated, PASS itself fell rapidly by the wayside, and the teaching and learning of model coherency also greatly diminished.
However, the model coherency construct was used infrequently by those who had previously learned it as a basis for conducting assessments on existing services, and as a guide for planning new services. Wolfensberger continued to evolve and elaborate the concept through the 1990s, with experimental versions of a revised model coherency rating, called Model Coherency Impact. But these were unpublished, and used only selectively at a few training events.
In training events on SRV, participants continued to be taught a bit about model coherency as one of what are called core "themes" of SRV. In this teaching, the concept of relevance and potency are emphasized, in addition to coherency. Relevance refers to the provision of content that actually addresses the needs of the people served, and potency refers to whether, and to what degree, the processes are effective for doing so. SRV adds that the combination of elements should be not only effective but also protective and even enhancing of the social image of the people served.
Just before his death in 2011, Wolfensberger brought to near-completion his most thorough, extensive, and in-depth work on model coherency, a two volume book draft entitled The Construct of Model Coherency as the Key to Human Service Quality: What Model Coherency Is, & How to Design & Evaluate Service Model Coherency (Wolfensberger, in press). This book represents the culmination of his thinking on what model coherency is, why it is important, and how it can be used in both service design and evaluation. The book explains service models and gives examples of different models and how they are expressed in actual service practice, it lays out what Wolfensberger calls the "tool subjects" for understanding and applying model coherency, and it provides a step-by-step method for designing a service so as to be maximally model-coherent as well as being as social role-valorizing as possible. There is also a model coherency rating for assessing the degree of model coherency of an existing service. Both the design and assessment are meant to be done by a team of people versed in both the model coherency construct as well as the accompanying tool subjects.
Wolf Wolfensberger's contributions to role theory
The development of Social Role Valorization (SRV) (Wolfensberger, 1983) put social role theory front and center in Wolfensberger's (2012) project of developing an empirically-based system of ideas (meta-theory) that would help describe the dynamics of social (de)valuation and assist in devising comprehensive strategies for social change. Wolfensberger has often commented upon the importance of "sociologizing" strategies of human intervention (1993; 1999) and the importance of social and physical contexts in determining life outcomes (Wolfensberger & Thomas, 2007).
Role theory is an important tool of analysis that helps explain apparent regularities of behavior as well as the structure of the social system (Biddle, 1979). Biddle, in his review of role theory (1986), shows that it represents an important body of social science theorizing and research, and that role concepts come close to being the "lingua franca" (p. 8) of the behavioral sciences.
"Role theory concerns one of the most important features of social life, characteristic behavior patterns or roles. It explains roles by presuming that persons are members of social positions and hold expectations for their own behaviors and those of other persons" (Biddle, 1986, p. 67).
There are a number of role/social role theories that are meant to describe a variety of social dynamics (Lemay, 1999). Wolfensberger acknowledges that "the sociologist Talcott Parsons (e.g., 1951) was one of the early authorities to emphasize the importance of social roles" (2013, p. 45). Also, he often referenced the (1958, 1961, 1963) works of another influential sociologist, Erving Goffman (e.g., Wolfensberger, 1999). In an extensive review, Lemay (1999) documents how Wolfensberger's role theory is consistent with the extant sociological literature, including the works of Parsons and Goffman, though it stands on its own and makes original contributions to role theory's explanatory power (as described below).
Role theory has had a place in Wolfensberger's works since at least 1969 with the publication of his "Origin and Nature of our Institutional Models" (later published as a separate book), where he describes how the architecture, activities, amenities, and other characteristics of the large congregate care facilities of the era (ca. 1970) contributed to casting residents into six negative ascribed roles – i.e., a social identity that is attributed to an individual because of group membership or other factors over which the person has little control (race, religion, gender, citizenship, type of disability, age, etc.). These roles are:
- Sick person
- Subhuman organism
- Object of pity
- Burden of charity
- Holy innocent
Such ascriptions, acting as stereotypes, would then engender in those who encountered such people, negative expectations of them, perceptions of low social value, and resulting maltreatment. He goes on to suggest that, in contrast, a positive role, such as that of "developing person" would give rise to more positive expectations, perceptions, and treatment, such as better residential arrangements and more valued activities. Thus, membership in a devalued group and the attribution of such stereotypical roles has a profound impact on how people are perceived and treated.
As Wolfensberger's definition of the principle of normalization evolved, he came to the conclusion that social roles were a key construct that allowed for a parsimonious statement of means and goals. "Normalization implies, as much as possible, the use of culturally valued means in order to enable, establish, and/or maintain valued social roles for people" (Wolfensberger &Tullman, 1982, p. 131). This led to a new direction of theory development and the abandonment of the term normalization for Social Role Valorization (Wolfensberger, 1983), a name change that he accompanied with a reformulation of the principle itself (Wolfensberger, 1983).
A few years later, Wolfensberger observed that access to the good things of life (Wolfensberger, Thomas & Caruso, 1996), or what may be termed objective well-being, is qualified by one's social status as determined by one's social roles. Thus, the application of SRV aims at improving the quality of life conditions and experiences through the attribution and/or achievement of valued social roles. With SRV, social integration is defined in terms of valued social roles that bring about the valued social participation of an individual through shared valued activities, in valued settings, in interaction with members of valued society (Wolfensberger, 2013; Lemay 2006).
Wolfensberger's most recent update of his definition of SRV further reflects the centrality of roles in describing the processes of social evaluation.
"Social Role Valorization is a theoretical framework that, based on empirical knowledge, and drawing on multiple theories in sociology and psychology, (a) posits a relationship between the social roles people occupy, and how these people are then perceived, evaluated, and treated; and (b) affords the formulation of predictions of how shaping the social roles of individuals, groups, or classes will influence how perceivers of these roles respond to, and treat, these respective parties, and of a great many strategies for doing so" (Wolfensberger, 2012, 78-79).
In other words, the knowledge of empirical dynamics could be of very practical use in shaping how people are seen and treated, and especially, how people who tend to be viewed and treated very badly could have their life situations greatly improved.
Roles are the context of human interaction, and it is indeed hard to imagine role-less social intercourse. People are perceived and perceive themselves largely through the roles they occupy (Wolfensberger, 2012). Such perceptions are essentially subjective and lead to social judgments whereby individuals and groups are valued according to the roles they are seen to occupy and play. "The value people attribute to various social roles tends to decisively shape their behavior toward persons whom they see in valued or devalued roles. Those in valued roles tend to be treated well and those in devalued roles, ill" (p. 13).
Thus for SRV, social roles determine one's place in a social system.
"A social role may be viewed as a combination of behaviors, functions, relationships, privileges, duties and responsibilities that is socially defined, is widely understood and recognized within a society (or at least within one of its subsystems), and is characteristic or expected of a person who occupies a particular position within a social system" (Wolfensberger, 2012, p. 26).
However, one's social status also opens or impedes access to certain social roles: "Social roles can be placed along a continuum from deeply devalued to highly valued ones, and most of these polarities fall within a relatively small number of clusters" (2013, p. 49). Wolfensberger (2013) describes eight "role domains" that include (a) relationships, (b) residence, domicile, (c) economic productivity, occupation, (d) education, (e) community, civic identity, participation, (f) cultus, values, and (g) culture (adapted from p. 50). Roles within these domains are variously valued and are available to be taken up in keeping with the person's perceived social status. Generally one's social status will be improved by moving into a valued role. For instance, in the domiciliary domain, the perceived social value of someone in the role of renter in a bad neighborhood is likely to improve if the person moves into the role of home-owner in a better neighborhood.
Wolfensberger argues that all roles are ultimately ascribed, but some are also "competency-contingent" (2012, p. 60) – requiring certain defined skills – and thus achieved. The ascribed roles are tied to the social categories and groups we are perceived to belong to – they are in a sense in the eye of the beholder – whereas we do have some control over achieved roles. But if a role appears incongruous – a person does not "look the part" (does not conform to people's expectations) or does not have some of the basic skills required – recognition of the person in the role may be withheld, and thus the person lacks the legitimacy to occupy the role. Eagly and Wood note a similar phenomenon as it pertains to changing gender roles: "Women entering male dominated roles contend with cultural incongruity between people's beliefs about what it takes to excel in those roles and stereotypes about the attributes of women ... As a result, even highly qualified women may be judged to lack the attributes necessary for success" (p. 470).
Wolfensberger's (1999) goal early on was to develop a universally applicable social science theory of social valuation that would help explain, among other things, the systematic marginalization and other forms of maltreatment that affect vulnerable groups. With Social Role Valorization theory, social role theory describes critical social dynamics that are at the heart of social exclusion, and where valued social roles are a key ingredient to the equalization of opportunity.
Wolfensberger mostly worked and published in the field of disability (though he did not use that term), especially intellectual disability, and his further development of role theory, and especially his application of the concept to address complex social problems, has not yet been noticed by mainstream role theorists, though it has had a recognized impact in the field of disability research and theorizing (Heller et al., 1991).
Wolfensberger has mined the vast body of social role theory and shown that it has many elements that can be further developed and systematically applied to efforts to improve the lives of vulnerable people. In doing so, he has made a contribution to sociology and social psychology that will inevitably be recognized.
Contribution to the history of human service
A notable characteristic of Wolfensberger's "scholarly" persona was his consistent moral and intellectual orientation to seeking and professing truth. In this, he was guided by an orientation to "universals," i.e., things which are true always and everywhere, for instance about human beings, human nature, and human service. In this connection, he often urged his students and associates to "think higher," meaning to identify the universals that govern the specifics, in order to get to the heart of things. In encouraging others to elevate their understanding of important issues and developments in this way, he customarily explored the historical context to learn the origin of things, where they came from, why they started, how and why they evolved over time in a particular manner, and what their trajectory tells us is likely in the future.
In regard to human services in particular, he was convinced that: (a) it is not possible to fully comprehend the nature of contemporary services without some understanding of their history; and (b) an appreciation of their history sheds much light on modern human service practices and pursuits, and lends predictability to their likely future character. He saw history as a way "to see further out in time in both directions." This conviction led logically to his own scholarly approach to the study of human service history and his teaching it to others.
Circa 1979, Wolfensberger began to investigate and document the history of human services more broadly. Being both teacher and writer, he shared his findings about history in teaching and training events, as well as in writings, only some of which were published. His first teaching events on the history of human services started out as one-hour presentations, and eventually grew to 12+ hours taught over a two-day period, using hundreds of pictures and illustrations, to trace the history of service ideas and practices from the beginnings of Western civilization up to the current day.
Wolfensberger also studied and taught on the history of more narrow human service sectors. For instance, he first taught and then wrote up his thoughts about the state of human services over the time of his life that he spent working in the field. It was called, and was published as, "Reflections on a Lifetime in Human Services, from Prior to the Reforms of the 1950s-70s to the Present, with Implications for the Future: What Has Gotten Better, What Has Gotten Worse, What Is the Same, & What Lies Ahead" (Wolfensberger, 1991). Other examples are his teaching and writing on: the "iconography" of impairment, meaning how people with mental and physical handicaps are portrayed in art; how invalids were transported throughout history; the history of certain negative image associations to handicapped people, such as images of the demonic and its related imagery of clownery; the rise of the "eugenic" era (ca. 1875-1925) and the killing of handicapped people by the Nazis preceding and alongside the Nazi killing of the Jews. He also collected postcards from the late-1800s to early 1900s that illustrate institutions of all different types: prisons, hospitals, mental retardation and mental disorder facilities, tuberculosis sanatoria, orphanages, foundling homes, retirement villages, poor farms, and county homes. He also had large collections of classic books in the field, historical fiction in which mentally retarded characters were portrayed, historical records about certain services from locales around the world, including institutions, and historical instruments or tools of service, such as invalid feeding cups, ear trumpets, and customized eating utensils. He wrote about some of these materials, and developed presentations or courses on some others; and intended to do the same with yet others, but was overtaken by death before he was able to do so. However, whether or not he was able to present or write about them, he always learned from them and incorporated this learning in some of his teaching.
Wolfensberger's teaching on the history of human services offers many benefits to any interested party. For instance, his treatment of history brings out many good lessons and ideas that should be preserved and taught, as well as bad ideas recurring over and over throughout history that should be recognized and resisted. Another major benefit is that it brings out, and in a sense, honors the accomplishments of many "noble actors" throughout the history of human service who rose above the status quo in their service to lowly people. These were individuals who were able to perceive unmet or "mis-met" needs and act to address them in accord with their personal beliefs and ideals, and usually in contradiction to the prevailing structures. One might say that these were Wolfensberger's teachers in the sense that he learned from them, integrated their ideas and ideals, and passed them along to benefit future generations. Examples of such individuals, all of whom believed strongly in the developmental potential of handicapped people or advocated against destructive forces, include:
William Tuke (1732-1822), an English Quaker who founded the York Retreat where he developed and carried out "moral treatment" as a more humane and "gentler" method of custody and care of people with mental disorders.
Jean Marc Gaspard Itard (1774-1838), a French physician, known as an educator of the deaf, who provided instruction and education for Victor, the so-called "wild boy of Aveyron" who had been found living wild in the woods, almost totally unsocialized, and presumably abandoned.
John Conolly (1794-1866), an English psychiatrist and resident physician to the Middlesex County Asylum where he introduced the principle of non-restraint into the treatment of the insane, throwing out 600 mechanical restraint devices, and was thus instrumental in non-restraint becoming a more widely accepted practice in England. He also wrote about moral treatment.
Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), an American abolitionist and physician, was an advocate of education for the blind, who organized and directed the first school for the blind (1829) in Watertown, Massachusetts, called the New England Asylum for the Blind and later the Perkins School For the Blind.
Édouard Séguin (1812-1880), a physician and student of Itard, established the first private school (in Paris, 1840) dedicated to teaching the severely mentally retarded, and pioneered modern educational methods for what came to be called "special education."
Johann Jakob Guggenbühl (1816-1863), a Swiss physician who ran a very influential institution for people with cretinism, and is considered one of the precursors of medico-educational care.
Thomas Story Kirkbride (1809-1883), a physician, advocate for the mentally ill, developer of the Kirkbride Plan, and founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (AMSAII), a precursor to the American Psychiatric Association.
Hervey Backus Wilbur (1820-1883), a physician and educator who, impressed by the example of Édouard Séguin, was the first in North America to attempt the "education of the feeble-minded," taking several pupils into his own home; he was the first superintendent of the State Asylum For Idiots at Syracuse (later called the Syracuse Developmental Center)
Maria Montessori (1870-1952), a physician and educator who established the first Montessori School in Rome (1907) where she initially applied her pedagogical ideas to children labelled "mental defectives." Also, unlike today, her schools were initially for the poor.
Marc Gold (1939-1982), an educator and researcher who developed the "Try another way" method for instructing the severely mentally retarded and led a reawakening regarding their competency development.
Burton Blatt (1927–1985), an educator and university professor and administrator who first brought Wolfensberger to Syracuse (New York) University, and a pioneer in the deinstitutionalization movement, perhaps best remembered for his photographic exposé Christmas in Purgatory (1966), depicting the everyday miseries of life in a mental institution.
There were many other people, such as Anne Sullivan (1866-1936), Erving Goffman (1922-1982), Jean Vanier (1928-2019), and others, from whom Wolfensberger took notice in his teaching of their ideas, accomplishments, and example. It is useful to note that the ideals that motivated the service of many noble actors (such as taking a vulnerable person or two into their own homes, offering humane and moral treatment in place of harsh and dehumanizing incarceration, having confidence in the educability and developmental potential of even the most severely impaired) were often distorted and perverted over time in and by the practice of others. The most common and recognizable such distortions began with small residential settings expanding into larger and ever larger separate segregated facilities, such as residential "schools" for the mentally impaired, almshouses, prisons, etc. and, in turn, so many of these eventually becoming huge "snake-pit" institutions, exemplified by the old Bethlehem or "Bedlam" Hospital in London, and more contemporary custodial facilities like Willowbrook, and others.
Wolfensberger played major roles in not only helping to preserve and teach human service history to others, but also in shaping that history as well, facts that are clearly recognized by many of his contemporaries. For example, he was recognized as one of the most influential people in the field of mental retardation in the 20th century, specifically for normalization and SRV (Heller, et. al. 1991), and by Exceptional Parent Magazine as one of "the 7 wonders of the world of disabilities" (Hollingsworth & Apel, 2008). Fairly early in his career, in the late-1960s, while living in Nebraska (USA), he was a key member of a small group of change-minded service leaders with revolutionary ideas about serving mentally retarded people. The group succeeded in getting monies diverted away from the state's large mental retardation institution and devoted instead to establishing the Eastern Nebraska Community Office of Retardation, or ENCOR, in Omaha in the late 1960s as a more humane and normative community-based system built on normalization principles. It was the first-of-its-kind and was visited and studied by service leaders from across North America and Europe. ENCOR provided a tangible example that helped to change the history of mental retardation services, and was a prime factor in inspiring the "deinstitutionalization" movement that eventually swept across North America and beyond. Another factor that provided ongoing momentum to this movement was Wolfensberger's publication of The Origin and Nature of Our Institutional Models (1968, 1975), in which he first described the nature of human service models, and the devastation which institutional models in particular wrought in the lives of those upon whom they were imposed.
Also of notable historic import are two other Wolfensberger contributions, the principle of normalization and the theory of Social Role Valorization (SRV). These virtually reshaped the mindsets of many thousands of human service workers about how best to serve vulnerable people, and are now recognized as among the most developmentally sound and adaptive theoretical frameworks for organizing services to them. His contributions of PASS and PASSING have also had major impact by helping service workers extend normalization and SRV beyond being nice abstract ideals into systematic guidance for carrying out their service goals in actual practice. PASS, first published in 1972, has now been superseded by PASSING, which has been in use since its initial publication in 1983. Both PASS and PASSING were among the earliest, if not first, evaluation instruments to define what factors constitute good or bad service quality from the perspective of the service recipient, and to spell out qualitative criteria for determining a service's performance in regard to those qualitative factors. Normalization, SRV, PASS, and PASSING are all also described in this Wikipedia page.
Perhaps his major overall contribution to the general history of human service is that he helped to keep that history alive and relevant to contemporary services and service workers through his research, writing, and teaching. This is particularly true of sectors of human service that deal mainly with people at risk of being seen and treated as socially devalued. His recovery, documentation, and promulgation of that history and its lessons offer ongoing benefits to new and future generations of vulnerable people and those who serve upon them in almost any form of contemporary service.
Wolfensberger, W. (1974). The origin and nature of our institutional models. Syracuse, NY: Center on Human Policy. (Partial reprint in monograph form of chapter entitled "The Origin and Nature of Our Institutional Models." In R. Kugel, & W. Wolfensberger (Eds.). (1969). Changing patterns in residential services for the mentally retarded (pp. 59–171). Washington, DC: President's Committee on Mental Retardation.)
Wolfensberger, W. (1975). The origin and nature of our institutional models (revised & illustrated). Syracuse, NY: Human Policy Press. (Revised and illustrated reprint of chapter entitled "The Origin and Nature of Our Institutional Models." In R.Kugel, & W. Wolfensberger (Eds.). (1969). Changing patterns in residential services for the mentally retarded (pp. 59–171). Washington, DC: President's Committee on Mental Retardation.
Wolfensberger, W. (1979). Some historical and moral reasons why members of the clergy and other religious ministries may join the devaluation of societally devalued people. National Apostolate With Mentally Retarded Persons Quarterly, 9(4), 16-17.
Wolfensberger, W. (1981). The extermination of handicapped people in World War II Germany. Mental Retardation, 19(1), 1-7.
Wolfensberger, W. (1982). Eulogy for a mentally retarded jester. Mental Retardation, 20(6), 269-270
Wolfensberger, W. (1991). Reflections on a lifetime in human services and mental retardation. MentalRetardation, 29(1), 1-15.
Wolfensberger, W. (1995, April). History of a Swiss-German family: 1400 to 1995. The lineage of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger's family. Wolfensberger, 1(2), 8. (Newsletter of the Wolfensberger Family Association).
Wolfensberger, W. (1999). A contribution to the history of normalization, with primary emphasis on the establishment of normalization in North America between 1967-1975. In R. J. Flynn, & R. A.Lemay (Eds.), A quarter-century of normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and impact (pp. 51–116). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: University of Ottawa Press.
Wolfensberger, W. (1974). Reflections on reading old annual government reports on the lunatic and idiot asylums of the province of Ontario. Canada's Mental Health, 22(3), 21-24.
Wolfensberger, W. (2001) The story of the "Cruickshank chairs" at Syracuse University: A contribution to the history of the brain injury construct. Mental Retardation, 39, 472-481.
Human service planning and change agentry
Wolfensberger was very familiar with the dismal conditions of institutions and believed that change was necessary and possible, and that the concept of Normalization was a key to such change. He was one of the few and first (at least in North America) to believe that mentally retarded people, even the most impaired, could grow and develop. He wrote about the "developmental model" and its related positive assumptions and principles for implementing it, and taught the Developmental Model as part of his Normalization and Social Role Valorization training events. (See sections on the Developmental Model, Normalization and Social Role Valorization).
In his research position at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute in 1964, Wolfensberger came to strongly disagree with the fundamental rationales and prevailing ideas of the predominant and dehumanizing model of institutionalizing people with mental and physical impairments. In order to combat and change the institutional paradigm, Wolfensberger and allies developed and adapted human service planning concepts and broader change agentry strategies. According to O'Brien (2011), Wolfensberger consulted the social change and leadership literature and began to form and test in action his theories of what he called "change agentry." At the time, the term "change agentry" was somewhat unusual. Wolfensberger (2012) notes that it evolved from "change agent," probably in the 1950s; then the term "change agency" was used on rare occasions in the 1960s; and that "change agentry" was coined yet later, probably in the late 1960s. In fact, he was one of the first people to make the term "change agentry" more widely known. (Wolfensberger, 2012). One major such strategy was their creation of the "Eastern Nebraska Community Office of Retardation," or ENCOR, a comprehensive multi-component and coordinated community-based human service system headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska (USA). By the mid-1970s, ENCOR became a place where it was possible to see the positive effects of a comprehensive system of services that combined family support, integrated early education, individually supported employment and work stations in industry, an array of small residences specialized to provide a range of supports to meet individual needs in ordinary housing, including an apartment living program, and a set of specialized initiatives, such as a program for legal offenders with mental retardation, both of which were, at the time, radically new concepts in the field.
Another of his major change agentry strategies to guide the development of emerging community service systems, such as ENCOR, was the creation of PASS with Linda Glenn (Wolfensberger and Glenn (1972, 1975). PASS (an acronym for Program Analysis of Service Systems) is an instrument to evaluate the likely impact of a service's physical, social, and administrative features on its recipients' age and culture appropriate treatment and interpretation, developmental growth, and social integration, as well as its degree of specialization to meet the most important service needs of the people it serves.
O'Brien (2011) states that Wolfensberger's 1972 book, The Principle of Normalization in Human Services, made clear his intention to lead a process of social change to develop community settings and adaptive service practices that would significantly improve the lives of mentally retarded and other impaired people and their families, as well as contribute materially to the longer term process of making deep positive changes in the social perceptions of such people. He was willing to test his theories by putting them into practice at the provincial, state, and local levels. Between 1971 and 1973, Wolfensberger was a visiting scholar at the National Institute on Mental Retardation in Toronto, Canada, where he revolutionized thinking about human services and used his "change agentry" strategies to teach a new generation of human service leaders and potential leaders in both the US and Canada.
In 1973, Burton Blatt, the head of the school of Special Education at Syracuse University, invited him to accept a professorship there, and to establish an entity from which he could further develop and teach his ideas. It was no mistake that the name Wolfensberger gave to the institute he created and directed at Syracuse University had the word "change agentry" in its title - The Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry. During the 1970s, Wolfensberger regularly taught (among things) an intensive six-day workshop on "Planning of Comprehensive Community-based Human Service Systems." In effect, this entire workshop was dedicated to both the principles of change agentry and to what an adaptive service system would look like if it were established or transformed according to these principles.
Wolfensberger (2012) describes his concept of change agentry as:
"When we are confronted with something that we deem to be sub-optimal or wrong, and that is within the scope of being made un-wrong or at least better by humans, then many of the action-oriented strategies that may be embraced by different people who want to see a change come about fall into three broad classes.
- One class of strategies is to speak boldly and frankly about what is wrong or inferior, why so, who (if anyone) made it that way, and what should be done about it, and to do all this even if nobody will listen, and even if one will be put to death for speaking up. One might call this the prophetic paradigm of change agentry.
- The second approach consists of thinking through what it might take to gain people to one's side, and to win their support for a course of change presumably to the better, either by persuading them about what could be done, or by enlisting them on one's side in a course of action even if they do not agree with it. One might call this the ordinary change agentry paradigm.
- The third major strategy is to virtually—or even literally—wage war against what one thinks is wrong or inferior, and to do so regardless of the odds one faces. One might call this the revolutionary paradigm of change." (p. 281-282.)
Wolfensberger (2012) stated that in human services "there has been little of the revolutionary mode, but there has been quite a bit of debate between the ordinary change agentry and the prophetic strategy." (p. 283.)
According to O'Brien (2011), one theme that defined Wolfensberger's early years was the planning and implementation of comprehensive community service systems, such as ENCOR. Wolfensberger developed the above-mentioned six-day workshop on the idea of planning and implementation of a comprehensive community service system. He conducted this training across the United States and Canada mainly during the late-1970s. This intensive workshop included wide-ranging lectures on the multiple elements of planning and change agentry, the nature, structure, and array of services necessary to the composition of comprehensive service systems, as well as the review and critique of actual human service planning documents.
Wolfensberger remained convinced that these planning and change agentry concepts were entirely valid, but eventually stopped teaching them as "when he judged that social dysfunction has grown so strong that the conditions for implementing and governing an effective service system have been weakened to the point that it is almost infeasible to do so." (O'Brien, 2011, p. 79). Even more important was Wolfensberger's recognition that a much higher priority for him was to teach about and to encourage people to respond in morally coherent ways to the growing threat of what he called "deathmaking of unwanted and socially devalued people." [See sections on Moral Coherency and Deathmaking.]
Although Wolfensberger's teachings on change agentry and human service planning were valid and largely accepted by almost every one to whom these were taught, it proved nearly impossible in the prevailing socio-culture context to put them systematically and comprehensively into place at least not on any large scale. However, we have seen elements of them implemented here and there albeit in a scattershot manner: smaller and more normative settings and grouping sizes, service accountability mechanisms, closure and replacement of institutions by community-based (residential, vocational, educational, etc.) services.
The decade that began in 1967 saw exceptional growth in local services for people then identified as "mentally retarded". Wolf Wolfensberger influenced this critical period by producing and promulgating a comprehensive set of guiding patterns: a definition of the principle of normalization fit for the time and operationalized in PASS, an evaluation method; ComServ, the design for a locally governed system of community services sufficient to make institutions unnecessary; a systematic approach to planning for social change; The third stage in the evolution of voluntary associations for the mentally retarded, a call for such associations to move from service provision to a mission of monitoring, safeguarding, advocacy and innovation; and a study of guardianship and protection that resulted in Citizen Advocacy programs and in the design for the focus of this entry, A Multi-Component Advocacy/Protection Schema (hereafter The Multi-component Schema).
Wolfensberger's influence in this period was substantial. A courageous and charismatic practitioner of what he called Change Agentry, he disturbed many meetings, conferences and journal readers with meticulously articulated ideas delivered with a prophetic edge. Many opponents joined (often heated) debate within the terms that he set, thus engaging in the slow and deliberate process of prophetic persuasion he believed was the way to treat change in the lives of socially devalued people. Substantial numbers of local association leaders joined state and provincial officials and agency managers in the many workshops sponsored by the Canadian National Institute on Mental Retardation where he was Visiting Scholar, and the Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership, and Change Agentry that he founded at Syracuse University. These efforts produced a growing cadre of associates, committed to the long-term struggle to put his concepts to work.
A few of this number, in Georgia, Wisconsin and Nebraska, found an opportunity when the US Congress established Protection and Advocacy Systems in the 1975 Developmental Disabilities Amendments. Congress' purpose was to protect the legal and human rights of people with developmental disabilities through legal action and advocacy by creating state agencies free of conflict of interest. Modest funding for a year of planning (1976) was allocated. In these three states, small groups immersed in Wolfensberger's ideas won the competition to plan their state's system. Particularly in Georgia, where circumstances provided most opportunities to implement his ideas, his consultation gave the Multi-component Schema a pre-publication test bed as a guide to planning and implementation.
In the other 47 states it was taken for granted that the Protection and Advocacy System would be a kind of legal practice, staffed with attorneys and para-legal advocates who would wield the growing number of laws, regulations and court cases that acknowledged the rights of people with developmental disabilities to assert those rights in individual situations and class action lawsuits.
Wolfensberger's thinking challenged this obvious-to-others design at its foundations and created deeply interesting problems for planners to struggle with. The Multi-component Schema has three roots: a world view, identification with an overriding concern of many families, and a rigorous analysis of conflict of interest. These quotations partially express the sober world view that underlies the design.
[Even with an comprehensive, fully safeguarded service system and active citizen involvement] …there would still be a great deal of human suffering, there would still be abuses, there would still be people falling between the cracks, and there would still be loneliness, alienation, and misery. (P. 76) I am now convinced that a human service system--even an entire society—that lacks a significant number of voluntary one-to-one relationships between citizens and people in need absolutely will not work, and will collapse. When people are no longer willing to involve themselves personally and individually, it is all over. (P. 65)
The Multi-component Schema rests on Citizen Advocacy –a one-to-one relationship by which a competent citizen volunteer, free from built-in conflicts of interest, advances the welfare and interests of an impaired or limited person, as if that person's interests were the advocate's own (p. 30). Empathic listening to many families' deep concern, summed up in the phrase "Who will be there for my son or daughter when I am gone?", and extensive study of various guardianship and protective service schemes, primed Wolfensberger for a breakthrough of intuition that revealed the essence of Citizen Advocacy to him in the midst of a conference on guardianship.
Wolfensberger turned his very considerable powers of analysis on conflict of interest. The results shape every element of The Multi-Component Schema. Conflict of interest might be nefarious, but it much more often expresses a structural conflict between values. Structures that generate conflicts between conflicting responsibility to individual interest and the rules that necessarily come with public funding, for example, encumber case managers and service workers, no matter how able or committed they may be. Responsibility for a group can conflict with promoting individual interests, this encumbers protective services or public guardian schemes.
The Multi-component Schema reflects Wolfensberger's scholastic way of thinking. Seek universally valid principles, test current thinking and practice against them, build a design logically consistent with these principles regardless of short-term feasibility and weigh their pros and cons. He thought systemically: each individual design he created connected to and depended on all the others. So The Multi-component Schema implied a comprehensive community service system and third stage voluntary associations as they implied and depended on a complete array of protection and advocacy components. Once this principled design is stated rigorously, consider the actual circumstances of implementation, the trade-offs and compromises involved, and discern what might be possible and consequent priorities. Concerning the inevitable shortfall between his comprehensive design and its implementation, he said, a reasonable ideal is to pursue the implementation of a system that incorporates ideologies that are as positive as very weak human beings are able to adopt, and to operationalize strategies which are at least sound in principle even though not perfect in practice (P. 77).
Georgia's planners, who won a bitter competition for the designation to operate the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) as the state's protection and advocacy system, saw the possibility of realizing some of the key aspects of The Multi-component Schema.
- The resulting effort put first priority on support for the development and operation of local Citizen Advocacy Offices and early attention on diversifying funding through donations and a legislative appropriation dedicated to Citizen Advocacy. (An important constraint: in the early years the whole allocation of federal funds to GAO was less than the operating budget of a single state institution unit.)
- GAO attorneys' role was to build citizen capacity in two ways. First, by developing family leadership around inclusive education and adult service issues. Second, by systematically building a network of practicing lawyers willing and able to represent people with developmental disabilities. This included educational efforts with attorneys and judges, joining in organizing a disability law section of the Georgia Bar, referring cases, and consultation with lawyers who took cases. Attention to issues that might be resolved through class actions was left to very capable and already active lawyers with affiliations outside GAO.
- A very modest investment in immediate response to abuse by a highly skilled staff advocate whose mission included directly engaging citizens with the abused person.
- Investment of non-government funds in educational efforts, provided by Wolfensberger and his associates. This effort supported the development of citizen leadership and GAO staff and contributed to normalization-informed efforts to reform services. (The Multi-component Schema held that competent services are a necessary element in protecting people with developmental disabilities.)
- Investment in a variety of renewal activities for GAO allies and staff. These included systematic use of CAPE - Citizen Advocacy Program Evaluation (O'Brien & Wolfensberger, 1977) to support fidelity to principles and adaptive practices, sponsoring participation in available Training Institute events, and close supervision to assure the greatest possible consistency between decisions and the principle of normalization as defined in PASS 3. These investments recognized that effective support to advocacy and protection depends far less on following policy and procedure than on internalizing an ethic.
Each of these aspects of GAO reflect a rigorous common definition of advocacy (pp. 18–21) and its implications for GAO's purview. Advocacy has four qualities. It is speaking for another with vigor and vehemence. It is doing more than is routinely acceptable on behalf of the other person's cause. The advocate incurs a personal cost. The advocate is free of conflict of interest. It follows that citizens, rather than GAO employees, are the source of advocacy. Therefore, GAO's proper role is to use a variety of socially valued means to create the conditions that increase the number of voluntary one-to-one relationships between ordinary citizens and people in need of advocacy and protection.
Nothing differentiated GAO from other state's protection and advocacy systems, and nothing generated more conflicts with other advocacy groups, than its adoption of Wolfensberger's position on the place of laws and legal proceedings in advocacy and protection and GAO's consequent focus on mobilizing individual relationships with citizens –including practicing attorneys. Then, as now, class action lawsuits were seen by most as a higher form of advocacy, offering leverage to make large scale, systems change. Wolfensberger's position is fundamentally different. (Outlined in The Multi-component Schema and developed at much greater length in The Limitations of the Law in Human Services. CAMR/GAO, 1979; 2nd expanded edition Valor Press, 2015.) It expresses the world view that shaped all of his work and convinced GAO's planners that it was at least one legitimate approach to filling the protection and advocacy mandate. In summary, he says
The power of the law or the courts to solve patterns of social problems or abuse is extremely limited. A misconception seems to be currently sweeping the U.S. at least that solutions to human service problems lie in the law. More and more laws are being passed, they are becoming longer and more complex, and in many instances, less enforceable and less respected. In a society where almost all social "glues" (i.e., stabilizing social institutions) are coming apart, people are turning to litigation to resolve problems which are not resolvable because the social preconditions do not exist. The underlying problem with seeking legislative, litigative, or related judicial solutions is that what the culture does not have, or is unwilling to give, cannot be won by law or in a court of law. By and large, the law does what the culture wants it to do, and a lot of things we are asking from the law in the courts are things society cannot, and does not want to give. In consequence, a legal advocacy/protection approach is insufficient, and should be viewed more as an adjunct to a social solution rather than the other way around.
The Multi-component Schema design proved a fruitful approach to developing protection and advocacy. The effects were usually modest and development was slow but the numbers of citizens engaged in advocacy of various form steadily grew.
Changing circumstances steadily moved GAO farther from the principles and priorities set out in The Multi-component Schema. Externally, the parallel developments that initially supported GAO's efforts eroded: associations that pioneered a move toward the Third Stage declined to the vanishing point; the development of community services striving to implement normalization stalled; the state government reacted to well argued and successful lawsuits against institutionalization brought by others with hostility and a terrible mix of intransigence and incompetence. Internally, more funding attached to mandates to serve more groups of devalued people in federally prescribed ways broadened GAO's purview past the point of incoherence; distance grew between what federal administrators assessed and what GAO did; chronic conflict with other groups that more board members and managers believed should be close partners compromised clarity; links to the Training Institute grew weaker; changes of management brought new understandings of the work. GAO continues to do good and important work to the benefit of people with disabilities, though at some distance from its initial design
Those few Citizen Advocacy Offices able to follow The Multi-component Schema and put down strong local roots have shown resilience and continue to justify Wolfensberger's confidence if not his belief that advocates would be recruited in their thousands. The service system's implacable and enduring capacity to resist the fulness of on-the-ground results promised by the victories of highly skilled and committed litigators keeps Wolfensberger's perspective on the limits of the law a viable, if mostly forgotten, position.
The Citizen Advocacy program model was conceptualized by Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger in the late 1960s to advocate on behalf of vulnerable people and to protect them from harm. A Citizen Advocacy program works at the local community level. Its exclusive mission is to foster freely-given one-to-one relationships between valued citizens—called citizen advocates—and individuals—called protégés—who have needs that could be effectively addressed by advocacy. It accomplishes this by recruiting, orienting, and matching protégés and advocates, and then providing ongoing support to their relationships. Citizen Advocacy programs usually have a small number of paid staff guided by a diverse voluntary board of local citizens.
As with all of Wolfensberger's work, Citizen Advocacy is consistent with Social Role Valorization theory and its foundational analysis of the social situations of people who are members of socially devalued classes. This analysis acknowledges the reality that mental and physical impairments, sickness, poverty, and many other stigmatized and socially devalued conditions generate common patterns of negative attitudes and actions from others. The analysis demonstrates, both at individual and collective levels, that devaluation leads to an increased prevalence of yet further wounding life experiences. In this context, the presence of a committed personal citizen advocate provides safeguarding against further wounding, a measure of healing from past wounds, and possibilities for more opportunity and richness in the life of a vulnerable protégé.
In this context, the Citizen Advocacy program's role is to initiate and support relationships that have the potential to be highly relevant and effective in addressing each individual protégé's most pressing concerns. Because the personal experiences, situations, identities, interests and needs of protégés vary widely, so do the roles that advocates are recruited and oriented to fill. In most advocate-protégé relationships, the advocate's primary role is to provide practical, instrumental support to assist their protégé in getting through the daily business of life. Some advocates assume formal roles as guardians, custodians of a protégé's funds, or making medical and other service-related decisions on behalf of the protégé. In addressing the common wound of segregation from the mainstream of community life, many advocates serve as mentors assisting their protégés to be more actively engaged in community life. In response to the common wounds of rejection and absence of freely-given relationships, all advocates, by the nature of their involvement without any financial or other compensation, address a fundamental need for relationships that are freely given between the relationship participants. To address the reality of devalued protégés' ongoing vulnerability as members of a devalued class of people, all advocates are oriented to be conscious of their protégé's vulnerabilities. Many citizen advocates respond in inspiring ways when they are called upon to speak up to represent their protégé's interests in times of trouble.
Citizen Advocacy does not have the same kind of built in membership constituency from which other advocacy entities, such as associations of people with a devalued condition or of their family members, draw support. Therefore, the development and operation of a program requires the recruitment of program leadership and supporters. Community members come to support Citizen Advocacy when they are invited to consider involvement, and when that involvement resonates with their personal experience and/or with their beliefs about how people should respond to others in need. Community building, social justice, religious teachings, and the inherent enrichment that comes from a wide circle of relationships have all served as personal foundations for support of Citizen Advocacy programs.
Starting in 1969, Citizen Advocacy offices were established in numerous US states and Canadian provinces, and eventually in England, Australia, and New Zealand as well. However, many such programs did not last long because of several significant implementation challenges. Funding for the programs has been hard to come by, especially because it is important that a Citizen Advocacy office have funds that are as free of conflict of interest as possible. Service providers often discourage and sometimes actively deny Citizen Advocacy programs and advocates access to service recipients. Finding, developing, and supervising program staff who are effective in recruiting, orienting, and supporting advocates is challenging. Citizen Advocacy programs have therefore been fragile. Nevertheless, Citizen Advocacy programs are still operative in a number of states and provinces, and in Australasia, and some have been around for decades. Although the number of people they have been able to serve is relatively small, the individual unpaid advocates they recruit have protected and saved the lives of many impaired people; obtained for them housing, work, schooling; been by their side as they have endured family break-up, homelessness, and imprisonment; protected their rights; reunited them with estranged family; taken them into their own families—and in many other ways revealed the power of freely-given relationships to make a positive difference in the lives of vulnerable persons.
Wolfensberger, and others working with him when the first Citizen Advocacy programs began operation, developed a text book (Wolfensberger, W. & Zauha, H., 1973) and teaching materials to prepare others to implement and operate effective citizen advocacy programs. These early leaders in the Citizen Advocacy movement also believed that external evaluation increased the likelihood of effective service delivery. A number of rigorous external evaluations of early Citizen Advocacy programs identified five operating principles, seven key activities of Citizen Advocacy program staff, and several considerations about program funding and governance that were key elements if a Citizen Advocacy program were to be effective in fulfilling its mission.These were codified in "CAPE: Standards for Citizen Advocacy Program Evaluation" (O'Brien & Wolfensberger, 1979), which has served as the primary resource for guiding Citizen Advocacy program evaluation, planning, and operation.
Citizen Advocacy programs do not address all of a socially devalued person's relationship, belongingness, protection, and other needs. It is important to note Citizen Advocacy not only has significant, positive impact on protégés, but also on those who become their advocates, and on their wider communities. The possibility and the potential of freely-given, mutually beneficial relationship commitments demonstrates the importance of neighborly caring as an alternative to paid service provision. As Wolfensberger wrote:
"There are many people, especially wounded and handicapped people, who do not have viable, relatively unconditional one-to-one supportive relationships. If people are no longer willing to engage in those kinds of relationships, laws can be passed, unlimited funds can be allocated—and still nothing will work…if individual citizens, on a personal basis, do not bind the wounds of the sick, do not give bread to the hungry, do not console the broken-hearted and visit the imprisoned, do not liberate the captives of oppression, and do not bury the dead, then nothing will work."H
How to function with personal moral coherency in a disfunctional human service world
Wolf Wolfensberger had a relentlessly curious intellect. He researched and wrote on many topics, and also developed a number of seminar presentations, up to a week in length, to both share his findings and analysis and offer practical strategies to his students and associates, primarily human service workers.
In the early 1970s, he had been part of a major collective effort in Nebraska to close Beatrice State Home, an institution for persons with intellectual impairments and to create community based alternatives for them. This effort, which involved considerable analysis and collaborative effort on the part of professionals, government bureaucrats, families, and community members, bore many fruits for the persons in question, and also served as a world-wide model for similar such efforts. Wolfensberger wrote about this in a chapter, "Why Nebraska?" of a book, "Out of the Darkness and Into the Light" (Schalock, 2002).
In 1971, Wolfensberger moved to Canada at the invitation of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded, to serve as a visiting scholar. While there, he wrote the seminal text Normalization, for which he is arguably best known. In addition, he distilled the principles he had gleaned from his work in Nebraska into a series of professional training workshops on human service planning, delivery and change agentry.
Some would-be implementers lacked the skills or determination to stick with the task of change as advocated by Wolfensberger. Others were coopted by the systems they sought to change. Still others abandoned human service work for greener pastures. But many of Wolfensberger's students took his principles to heart, and returned to their professional roles eager to implement them and thereby effect positive change, and did approach the challenge with the disciplines he had taught them and persistence. In spite of the soundness of the principles, the tools they had acquired, their sincerity and determination, many of these change agents were met with powerful opposition: their efforts were quashed and they were attacked and often even evicted from their jobs.
An appreciation of the disfunctionalities in human services had long been present in Wolfensberger's work, including in the Nebraska era of service reform. As far back as 1968, Wolfensberger had concluded and taught that "…planning of human services required successful address of a very large number of very difficult and very complex issues, and that such address required the highest level of intellectual and scholarly discipline which has to be strongly tied to a firm positive ideological base". (Syracuse University Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry, 2004). When he moved on to Syracuse University (in Syracuse, New York) in 1973, the title he gave to his Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry clearly implied his belief that human services were seldom well-planned in advance but needed to be, often lacked adaptive leadership and had serious flaws that could be overcome by committed actors. He began to realize that because human services are formed by the society and world in which they exist, they will inevitably reflect and express their larger context. Whatever virtues, moral failings and propensities that a society might possess will be reflected in its human services. Serving with integrity depends on understanding how best to deal with the dynamics and disfunctionalities of those larger contexts, as well as with their effects on the moral coherency or incoherency expressed in one's serving function. These understandings soon evolved into the first iteration of what is now a week-long seminar on "How to Function with Personal Moral Coherency in a Disfunctional World, Including its Human Services." This teaching event is intended to better enable human service workers to maintain their moral integrity over time while working—often struggling—to provide adaptive service.
This teaching engendered a new set of tools for those wishing to provide good service to vulnerable people and to effect change in human services. Notably, it suggested new foci: in addition to understanding the dynamics of human service organizations and systems, it stressed the importance of understanding the moral foundations and climate of one's times, society and personal contexts. The workshop calls people to examine their morality, determine its soundness and align their beliefs and actions with valid truths about the world and the way it works, including human nature, both individual and collective. This in itself, Wolfensberger argues, is profoundly at odds with aspects of the current culture of what he and others term modernism, which proclaims that there are no universal truths, only those which each person determines. Wolfensberger identifies this modernism as a cause of the decline of modern society and a continuing threat, especially to lowly people. He exhorts his listeners rigorously to discern the moral dimensions of that society and to take a personal moral stance in contradiction to the evils and threats they identify and encounter. Contained within the workshop are teachings and exercises on classical tools of philosophy, such as rational moral analysis and the identification of logical fallacies.
This workshop does not paint a rosy picture of our world; it offers an indictment and a warning to those who would acquiesce in prevailing values and morality. Wolfensberger identifies modern values such as extreme individualism, materialism and sensualism as responsible for the corrosion of older, traditional values. As these decadent modern values destroy the traditional ones, so do they erode the foundations of society, our sense of comity and polity. Many attendees are discouraged by this but others are liberated by the call to clarify one's morality and stand in contradiction to a modern world that in many essential ways has gone terribly wrong.
With an eye to preserving this material, continuing the research behind it and ensuring its preservation, Wolfensberger assembled a cadre of others who had found great merit in his teachings. This group meets to study the material of the seminar on "How to Function with Personal Moral Coherency in a Disfunctional World, Including its Human Services" discuss contemporary expressions of the principles therein and to promote the training seminars. The group aims to offer the seven-day training event at least once every other year. It has taught the workshop many times in the United States and Canada, as well as in England and Australia. Similar groups have formed around others of Wolfensberger's many areas of research and teaching, such as Social Role Valorization, the philosophy of Personalism and the importance of defending the lives of vulnerable persons (and others) in the face of the many threats to the sanctity of those lives.
Deathmaking of unwanted and devalued people
One of the most controversial elements of Wolfensberger's teaching and writing was on the topic of "deathmaking," a word that he coined in the late 1970s to reflect all the many ways, from the direct to the indirect, in which people's lives could be abbreviated—in other words, the many ways in which people could be "made dead." Wolfensberger noticed that the legalization of abortion in the US in 1973 led very quickly to admissions of infanticide of impaired newborns, by medical personnel in prestigious hospitals, and that these admissions were accompanied by calls to legitimize such infanticide as well. At about the same time, there began the first open calls for the legalization of some form of so-called "euthanasia" for impaired people. Wolfensberger perceived all these developments as signs of decadence from societal values that had once upheld the sanctity of all human life, to ones where concern with individualism (what any given person wants), sensualism (what is convenient and feels good), and utilitarianism (what yields the most benefits and brings the least costs) trumped higher values of altruism, concern for others and the common good, an acceptance of the inevitability of hardship and suffering in each human life, and moral absolutes such as the prohibition of killing.
He also began to see that apart from direct ways of killing such as abortion, infanticide, and so-called "euthanasia," there were many other things that could be done, and were being done, to societally devalued people that indirectly brought an early end to their lives. Here are two examples of these indirect deathmaking measures. One is "dumping" impaired people out of services into so-called "independence," and so many of these dumped people ended up near the bottom rung of society, in the street culture, in abject poverty, homeless or nearly homeless, with multiple untreated medical conditions, even in jail and prison where they were very likely to be violated. Another indirect measure of shortening people's lives is the widespread use of psychoactive drugs that have very harmful effects on virtually every bodily system, especially over the long run. These drugs are widely given to devalued people; in some classes of devalued people, almost 100% of them are on one or more of these drugs.
Wolfensberger further perceived that many of the progressive people in human services, and many of those who had supported earlier service reforms such as deinstitutionalization and normalization, were now giving their support to at least some of these deathmakings, most especially abortion and so-called "euthanasia." His initial teaching and writing on the topic of deathmaking was to alert people to the fact that it was happening. But as time went on, he found that he had to shift to trying to convince them not to support it but instead to protect and defend the lives of all devalued people. However, as various forms of deathmaking gained wide societal acceptance, his became very much a minority voice. And people who had once supported and embraced his earlier teaching now began to reject him, to reject this cry against deathmaking, and even to reject his other teachings on normalization, Social Role Valorization, Citizen Advocacy, cautions against dangers associated with the new community services, and virtually anything he said or wrote. As he put it, he could have "done Normalization the favor of dying when [he] was at the peak of [his] reputation and effectiveness." (Wolfensberger, 1999, p. 97)
Wolfensberger self-published a small monograph on the topic entitled The New Genocide of Handicapped & Afflicted People—self-published because no other publisher would take it on.
He also recognized that hospitals had become very risky places for devalued people, for several reasons: sickness reduces one's capacities and competence, the complexity of contemporary medicine leads to many medical errors, and medical personnel often hold negative attitudes about the value of the lives of impaired people, all of which endangers devalued people when they are in hospital. He therefore wrote (and again self-published) a book of instruction and advice for those who want to protect devalued people in hospital, to insure that they would come out alive, entitled A Guideline for Protecting the Health and Lives of Patients in Hospitals, Especially if the Patient is a Member of a Societally Devalued Class.
Though teaching about deathmaking, and the broader topic of societal decay and its implications for devalued people and for services to them, cost Wolfensberger a great deal of respect and prestige from human service circles that had previously listened to his teaching, nonetheless a small group of his associates and former students have continued to teach and write on these same topics—of course, always to relatively small audiences.
Efforts continuing the work of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger
There are several efforts in existence to continue the work begun by Dr. Wolfensberger, including the following:
The Social Role Valorization Development, Training & Safeguarding Council
The North American SRV Development, Training & Safeguarding Council, formed circa 1989, is a 17-member international group, which includes the North American SRV trainers associated most directly with Dr. Wolfensberger’s teaching. The Council also has several non-member correspondents. It meets twice yearly typically in-person, alternating between the United States and Canada, to discuss and make decisions about issues related to SRV, and to promote and encourage adaptive efforts to teach and apply SRV. It also provides credentialing of SRV trainers and teachers. For a more detailed explanation of the Council refer to Thomas, S., (1994). A brief History of the SRV Development, Training, and Safeguarding Council. The International Social Role Valorization Journal, 1(2), (15-18).
The International Social Role Valorization Association (ISRVA)
The ISRVA was formed in 2013 to promote Social Role Valorization (SRV) development, education, assessment, and leadership to assist people and organizations to implement SRV concepts so vulnerable people may have access to the good things in life. The ISRVA is an international organization with both organization and individual memberships. Its small Steering Committee is currently made up of people representing SRV dissemination efforts in North America and Europe, and its website is in English and French (https://socialrolevalorization.com/).
Steering Committee for Three Teaching Groups
Three groups have been established to carry on the teaching of three topics on which Dr. Wolfensberger taught, and that he considered among the most important of all his teachings. Each group is described below. All three groups are overseen by a single Steering Committee of which Dr. Wolfensberger was a member until his death. The Steering Committee meets several times a year to plan agenda for the meetings of each group, to discuss and propose members of each group, to schedule workshops, and to deal with other issues that arise in connection with the purposes of each group.
(1) The Moral Coherency Workshop Study Group
This group was formed in 2000, with the approval and participation of Dr. Wolfensberger, in order to preserve, safeguard, and carry on the kind of teaching/learning that is offered in the week-long workshop currently entitled “How to Function With Personal Moral Coherency in a World That is Disfunctional, Including Its Human Services” (abbreviated as the Moral Coherency workshop). The workshop was developed by Dr. Wolfensberger, and first given by his Training Institute in 1980.
In essence, the workshop teaches that the world as a whole is very imperfect, ultimately disfunctional, and this is reflected in everything that humans do, including serving upon people in need. The workshop reviews some of the inherent disfunctionalities of the universe, of human beings (both individually and collectively), of human social organization, and of human services.
The workshop also proposes high-level strategies for people who want to confront these difficult realities, and to continue as actors of moral integrity within such disfunctionality, including seeking and acting upon truth, preparing to stand in contradiction to wrong and harmful and even outright evil practices, accepting the inevitability of suffering and trying to find meaning in it, maintaining close personalistic connections with devalued people, and finding and creating support to enable one to endure.
As of 2021, there are 18 members of the Study Group, 8 from Canada and 10 from the US. All members have a personal interest in, and commitment to, perpetuating the Moral Coherency workshop. The group studies and discusses the workshop content and puts on workshops and holds regular (yearly) lengthy meetings for this purpose. The Study Group tries to conduct a workshop on this topic approximately every two years.
(2) The Sanctity of Life Workshop Salon
This group was formed in 2000, with the approval and participation of Dr. Wolfensberger, in order to preserve, safeguard, and carry on the kind of teaching/learning that is offered in the five-day workshop on “Threats to the Lives of Vulnerable People, and Crafting a Coherent Stance in Response.” Dr. Wolfensberger first began to teach on this topic in the mid-1970s and continued doing so until his death.
This workshop explains how, always, and everywhere, humans engage in “deathmaking” of those whom they severely devalue, the common forms of deathmaking, and how such deathmaking is disguised, covered up, and detoxified. The workshop also explains why and how unwanted people are made dead in contemporary society and invites participants to take a stance of opposition to this deathmaking—a stance that is well-thought-through, coherent, and protective of all human life in every circumstance and at every stage.
There are at present 14 members of the Salon, two from Canada, one from Germany, and the rest from the US. The Salon holds yearly weekend-long meetings to study the topic and prepare for the workshop and tries to put on a workshop approximately every 18 months.
(3) The Personalism Workshop Roundtable
This group was formed in 2011, after Dr. Wolfensberger had died, in order to preserve, safeguard, and carry on the kind of teaching/learning that is offered in the three-day workshop on “The Philosophy of Personalism, and Its Most Relevant Implications to Contemporary Life and Human Services.” Dr. Wolfensberger taught on some aspects of personalism as early as the 1980s, but only devised this workshop in the early 2000s.
This workshop presents a synthesis of Dr. Wolfensberger’s own understanding of the philosophy of “personalism,” including its historical background, the societal developments it responded to and why its inventors saw them as threats to human well-beings. The themes that run through personalism teaching emphasize the inherent and immeasurable value of each human being, human uniqueness, freedom, relationality, the importance of assuming personal moral responsibility, subsidiarity, and the primacy of the spiritual. The workshop also draws out implications to contemporary life and to human service from each of the themes.
The workshop Roundtable has six members, three from Canada, and three from the US. The Roundtable meets yearly for a long weekend, during which it studies the topic and prepares for the workshop. The Roundtable tries to conduct a personalism workshop approximately every 18 months.
SRV Study Groups
There are several SRV study groups that have existed over the years whose purposes, focus, membership, and prerequisites are similar. These are generally small localized or regionalized groups of people who gather regularly to study and discuss SRV and related issues, and to deepen members’ understanding of SRV theory, of devaluation generally, and of SRV implementation through ongoing dialogue. SRV study groups also offer a welcoming setting for people who are new to SRV concepts, and who would like to develop their proficiency in the subject. They provide a place where like-minded people can offer support, camaraderie, and feedback on issues related to SRV and its implications. Such groups are currently active in several Canadian provinces and US states, in India, Australia, New Zealand, and in some French-speaking areas.
- Obituary: Wolf Wolfensberger, (3 March 2011), The Post-Standard (Syracuse, USA)
- "UNMC McGoogan Library receives unique collection on care of mentally disabled," 24 Apr 2012
- Wolfensberger, W. (2002). Needed or at least wanted: Sanity in the language wars. Mental Retardation, 40, 75–80.
- Bank-Mikkelsen, N. E. (1980). Denmark. In R. J. Flynn, and K. Nitsch, (Eds.) Normalization, social integration, and community services (pp. 51-70). Baltimore: University Park Press.
- Nirje, B. (1969). The normalization principle and its human management implication. In Kugel, R. and Wolfensberger, W. (Eds.). Changing patterns in residential services for the mentally retarded. (pp. 179-195). Washington, D.C.: President’s Committee on Mental Retardation, 1969.
- Wolfensberger, W. (1972). The principle of normalization in human services. 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.
- Kendrick, M. (1999). The impact of Normalization and Social Role Valorization in the English-speaking world. In In R. J. Flynn, & R. Lemay (Eds.), A quarter-century of normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and impact. (pp. 425-426). Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
- Race, D. (1999). Social Role Valorization and the English experience. London: Whiting & Birch Ltd.
- Wolfensberger, W. (1983). Social role valorization: A proposed new term for the principle of normalization. Mental Retardation, 21(6), 234-239.
- 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
- Wolfensberger, W., & Thomas, S. (2005). Introductory social role valorization workshop training package. Syracuse, NY: Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry (Syracuse University).
- Kendrick, M. (1994). Why SRV is important. SRV-VRS: The International Social Role Valorization Journal, 1(1), 14-18.
- Wolfensberger, W., & Thomas, S. (2007). PASSING: A tool for analyzing human service quality according to Social Role Valorization criteria. Ratings manual. (3rd rev.). Syracuse, NY: Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry. (Syracuse University).
- Wolfensberger, W. (1983). Social role valorization: A proposed new term for the principle of normalization. Mental Retardation, 21(6), 234-239.
- Heller, H.W., Spooner, F., Enright, B.E., Haney, K. & Schilit, J. (1991). Classic articles: A reflection into the field of mental retardation. Education & Training in Mental Retardation, 26(2), 202-206.
- Hollingsworth, J., & Apel, L. (2008, November). The 7 wonders of the world of disabilities. Exceptional Parent Magazine. 50-54,
- Flynn, R., & Lemay, R. (1999). A quarter century of Normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and impact. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
- Thomas, S. (1999). Historical background and evolution of normalization-related and social role valorization-related training. In R. J. Flynn, & R. Lemay (Eds.), A quarter-century of normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and impact. (pp. 353-374). Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
- Lemay, R. (1995). Social Role Valorization and the principle of Normalization as guides for social contexts and human services for people at risk of societal devaluation. In A. E. Dell Orto, & R. P. Maraneli, Encyclopedia of disability and rehabilitation. New York: McMillan, 515-521.
- Duggan, M. (2010). The Value of SRV to People's Lives. The SRV Journal, 5(2), 10-14.
- Park, P. (1999). The impact of Normalization and Social Role Valorization on my life. In R. J. Flynn, & R. Lemay (Eds.), A quarter-century of normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and impact. (pp. 474-476). Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
- Wolfensberger, W. (1999). “A Contribution to the history of Normalization, with primary emphasis on the establishment of Normalization in North America between 1967-1975.” In Flynn, Robert, and Lemay, Raymond A. A Quarter-Century of Normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and Impact. Ottawa, ON: Ottawa University Press, 1999, pp. 51-116.
- Wolfensberger, W. and Glenn, L. (1973). PASS: A method for the quantitative evaluation of human services. Field Manual. Handbook Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- Wolfensberger, W., & Glenn, L. (1973). Program Analysis of Service Systems (PASS): A method for the quantitative evaluation of human services. Handbook. Field Manual. (2nd ed.) Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- Wolfensberger, W. and Glenn, L. (1975). PASS 3: A method for the quantitative evaluation of human services. Field Manual. Handbook Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- Thomas, S. (1999). “Historical background and evolution of Normalization-related and Social Role Valorization-related training.” In Flynn, Robert, and Lemay, Raymond A. A Quarter-Century of Normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and Impact. Ottawa, ON: Ottawa University Press, 1999, pp. 361-362.
- Osburn, J. (1999). “The personal impact of Normalization-related and Social Role Valorization-related training.” In Flynn, Robert, and Lemay, Raymond A. A Quarter-Century of Normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and Impact. Ottawa, ON: Ottawa University Press, 1999, pp. 477-481.
- Wolfensberger, W. and Thomas, S. (2007). PASSING: A Tool for Analyzing Service Quality According to Social Role Valorization Criteria, Ratings Manual, 3rd (revised) Edition. Syracuse, NY: Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry.
- 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. (2013). A brief introduction to Social Role Valorization as a high-order concept for addressing the plight of socially devalued people, and for structuring human services. (4th ed.) Plantagenet, ON: Valor Press.
- Flynn, R. J. (1975). Assessing human service quality with PASS 2: An empirical analysis of 102 service program evaluations (NIMR Monograph No. 5). Toronto, ON: National Institute on Mental Retardation. (PS)
- Wolfensberger, W., & Thomas, S. (1983). PASSING (Program Analysis of Service Systems’ Implementation of Normalization Goals): Normalization criteria and ratings manual. (2nd ed.). Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- Wolfensberger, W., & Thomas, S. (2007). PASSING: A tool for analyzing human service quality according to Social Role Valorization criteria. Ratings manual. (3rd rev.). Syracuse, NY: Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry (Syracuse University).
- O’Brien, J. (2011). Celebrating The Genius of Wolf Wolfensberger. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Vol. 36(1-2), 76-79.
- Wolfensberger, W. (2012). Chapter 6: Issues of Change Agentry in the Teaching, Dissemination and Implementation of Social Role Valorization, in Advanced Issues in Social Role Valorization Theory. (pp. 275-346. )Plantagenet, Ontario: Valor Press.
- O’Brien, J. and Wolfensberger, W (1980). CAPE Standards for Citizen Advocacy program evaluation. Toronto: Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded
- Wolfensberger, W. & Zauha, H. (1973). Citizen advocacy and protective services for the impaired and handicapped. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- O’Brien, J. & Wolfensberger, W. (1979). CAPE: Standards for citizen advocacy program evaluation. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
- Schalock, Robert L., (2002). Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, American Association on Mental Retardation, Washington, D.C.
- Syracuse University Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry (2004). May 2004 Supplementary Information for the Workshop Entitled “How to Function Morally, Coherently, & Adaptively in a World That is Disfunctional, Including its Human Services.” Syracuse, N.Y.
- Wolfensberger, W. (1999). A contribution to the history of Normalization, with primary emphasis on the establishment of Normalization in North America between 1967—1975. In R. J. Flynn & R. A. Lemay (eds.), A quarter century of Normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and impact. Pp. 51-116. Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press.
- Wolfensberger, Wolf (2002). The new genocide of handicapped and afflicted people (3rd rev. ed.). Syracuse, NY: Author.
- Wolfensberger, Wolf (2015). A guideline on protecting the health and lives of patients in hospitals, especially if the patient is a member of a societally devalued class (3rd ed.). Plantagenet ON: Valor Press.
Works by Wolf Wolfensberger
- Kugel, Robert B.; Wolfensberger, Wolf (1969). "Changing Patterns in Residential Services for the Mentally Retarded". Books: Wolfensberger Collection. Washington, D.C.: President's Committee on Mental Retardation.
- Wolfensberger, Wolf (1972). The Principle of Normalization in Human Services. Toronto, Ont.: National Institute on Mental Retardation. ISBN 9780969043843.
- Wolfensberger, Wolf P. (1977). A Multi-Component Advocacy/Protection Schema. Toronto, Ont.: Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded.
- 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.
- Academic journal articles
- Wolfensberger, Wolf (February 1991). "Reflections on a Lifetime in Human Services and Mental Retardation". Mental Retardation. American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 29 (1): 1–15. PMID 2017046.
- 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.
- Bersani, Jr., Hank (2001). "Wolf Wolfensberger: Scholar, Change Agent, and Iconoclast". Journal of Religion, Disability & Health. American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 4 (2–3): 1–9. doi:10.1300/J095v04n02_01. S2CID 147586108.
- Bleasdale, Michael (1994). "Deconstructing Social Role Valorization". Interaction. 7 (4): 16–22.
- Bleasdale, Michael (1996). "Evaluating 'Values': A Critique of Value Theory in Social Role Valorization". Australian Disability Review. Disability Advisory Council of Australia (1): 3–22.
- Gaventa, William C.; Coulter, David, eds. (2001). The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Pastoral Press. ISBN 0-7890-1314-2.
- Heller, H. William; Spooner, Fred; Schilit, Jeffrey; Enright, Brian E.; Haney, Kay (June 1991). "Classic Articles: A Reflection into the Field of Mental Retardation". Education and Training in Mental Retardation. Council for Exception Children, Division on Autism and Development Disabilities. 26 (2): 202–206. JSTOR 23878589.
- Kristiansen, Kristjana; Traustadóttir, Rannveig (2011). "In Memoriam: Wolf Wolfensberger (1934-2011)". Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research. Nordic Network on Disability Research. 13 (2): 167–168. doi:10.1080/15017419.2011.579492.
- Mann, Glenys; van Kraayenoorda, Christa (2011). "The Influence of Wolf Wolfensberger and His Ideas". International Journal of Disability, Development and Education. Routledge. 58 (3): 203–211. doi:10.1080/1034912X.2011.598374. S2CID 144111840.
- Williams, Paul (July 2011). "A Tribute to Wolf Wolfensberger". The British Journal of Developmental Disabilities. British Society of Developmental Disabilities. 57 (113): 109–116. doi:10.1179/096979511798967115. S2CID 143542413.
David Race (editor) (2003) Leadership and Change in Human Services: Selected Reading from Wolf Wolfensberger. New York: Routledge. David Race (2006) Social Role Valorization and the English Experience. London: Whiting and Birch.
- Social Role Valorization information & resources
- About Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger
- Dr Wolf Wolfensberger events & information
- Memorials to the life and work of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger
- Plymouth State Home & Training School
- Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization documentary and oral history interviews at the University of Minnesota
- Extended interview with Wolf Wolfensberger from the documentary Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normaliation
- A History of Human Services, Universal Lessons, and Future Implications, a recording of a two-day seminar, presented by Wolf Wolfensberger and Susan Thomas