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Wolf Peregrin Joachim Wolfensberger, Ph.D. (1934–2011[1]) 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 exposed the Nazi death camps and their targeting of the disabled, and contemporary practices which contribute to geographic differences in longevity.

Wolf Wolfensberger
Born1934 (1934)
Died27 February 2011(2011-02-27) (aged 76–77)
EducationB.A., philosophy, Siena College, 1955
M.A., psychology and education, Saint Louis University, 1957
Ph.D., psychology, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1962
OccupationProfessor of Special Education and Director of the Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry at Syracuse University
Years active1957–2011
Known fordisability rights advocacy, normalization principle, social role valorization
Notable work
The Principle of Normalization in Human Services (1972)
Spouse(s)Nancy Artz Wolfensberger
ChildrenMargaret Sager, Joan Lloyd, Paul Wolfensberger
Parent(s)Friedrich and Helene Wolfensberger


Early lifeEdit

Born in Mannheim, Germany in 1934, Wolfensberger was sent to the countryside for two years during World War II, in order to escape the bombing. He emigrated to the US in 1950 at 16 years of age.


He studied philosophy at Siena College in Memphis, Tennessee, received a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology at St. Louis University, and a PhD in Psychology from Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University), where he specialized in mental retardation and special education.


Wolfensberger worked at Muscatatuck State School, 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 fieldEdit

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.

Wolfensberger's papers are at the McGoogan Library of Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.[2]

A brief note on language usageEdit

Dr. 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, in fact, positive advancements or necessarily better. Therefore, he did not surrender to pressures to use such terminology.  

   Dr. Wolfensberger wrote and spoke quite a bit about this topic, even beyond the article in which he explains his thinking and rationales (Wolfensberger, 2002[3]), 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 or out of date or worse.

The principle of normalizationEdit

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[4]). It was later defined as the “normalization principle” by Bengt Nirje of Sweden (Nirje, 1969[5]). Wolfensberger reworked, systematized, sociologized, and generalized the concept beyond mental retardation to virtually all types of human services (Wolfensberger, 1972)[6].

   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)[7], 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.

   Normalization was taught as having two dimensions, one of interaction and one of interpretation. The most eye-opening was that of interpretation, because for the first time it pointed to how people with various kinds of handicapping or other devalued conditions were portrayed and imaged in the media, in society at large, by service names and logos, by where services were located and what they were next to. For instance, many services to mentally retarded people were located in the worst parts of town, next to a garbage dump or a cemetery, or far remote from where anyone else lived. And people who were devalued for one condition (such as mental impairment) would be served with and juxtaposed to those who were devalued for another (such as for being aged or poor). These types of juxtapositions hurt the image of the people at issue, yet image plays a big part in shaping attitudes towards a group of people, and in willingness to extend to them opportunities to participate in valued society. The interaction dimension emphasized the importance of high expectancies for people, of opening doors of opportunity and not unnecessarily segregating people especially from models of adaptive behavior.

   The idea of normalization caught on like wildfire in the mid-1970s in the field of mental retardation, and then spread to other fields. Handicapped people began to live in small houses and apartments in the community, they began to attend school with non-handicapped pupils and to go to work, they followed ordinary schedules and routines, and started to enjoy many of the rights and privileges of their non-impaired age peers. In many locales, institutions were considerably reduced in size, and in some places they were closed altogether. Even where they were not, their conditions were often greatly improved. However, while the term normalization was widely embraced, the complexities of the principle were not always understood or implemented. This led to many of what Dr. Wolfensberger termed “perversions” of normalization, such as abandoning impaired people to fend for themselves in society without any supports. Thus, his teaching from the mid-1970s on also tried to combat these misunderstandings, and to continually refine the definition and the teaching of normalization so as to make the perversions less likely. (Susan Thomas, April 2017).

   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[8]; Race, 1999[9]).

Social Role ValorizationEdit

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[10]).

The basic premise of SRV is that people are much more likely to experience the “good things in life” (Wolfensberger, Thomas, & Caruso, 1996[11]) 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[12]).

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[13]). 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[14]). 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[15]) was cited as the seventeenth most influential publication in the field (Heller, Spooner, Enright, Haney, & Schilit, 1991[16]). 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[17]), 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[18]). 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;[19] Thomas, 1999;[20] Kendrick, 1994[13]), and (c) the relationship of SRV to normalization (e.g., see Lemay, 1995;[21] Thomas, 1999;[20] and Wolfensberger, 1983[17]). 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;[22] Park, 1999[23]).


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[24]).  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:

  1. Encourages and enables the integration of people who use services within the valued culture;
  2. Uses age- and culture appropriate ways to interpret service users and to structure their experience;
  3. Organizes its responses to service users so that the responses fit each individual and are internally consistent in meeting each individual’s needs;
  4. Orients its efforts toward the growth/development of each service user; and
  5. Carries out its activity in enhancing and positively interpreting settings. (Wolfensberger and Glenn, 1973, pp. 3-4[25])

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 child-like) 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,[26] 1975[27]) 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).[28]  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).[29] 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).[30]

Between the publication of PASS 2 in 1973 and the development and consequent shift to the use of PASSING in the 1980’s, 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)[31]

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)[32] 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 Valorizationoften 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).[33]

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).[34]

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).[35]

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 coherencyEdit

One of Dr. 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[26]), 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[36]), 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[37]).  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[38]).  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, Dr. Wolfensberger's teaching of normalization also shifted to Social Role Valorization, which led to a new service evaluation tool called PASSING (Wolfensberger & Thomas, 1983[39], 2007[40]).  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.  Dr. 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.

Human service planning and change agentryEdit

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)[41], 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-1970’s, 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)[42] 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)[43] 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)[44] 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)[45], 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)[46]. 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.

Advocacy systemsEdit

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 law suits.

   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[47]) 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.

Citizen AdvocacyEdit

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 Dr. 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.

Dr. Wolfensberger, and others working with him when the first Citizen Advocacy programs began operation, developed a text book (Wolfensberger, W. & Zauha, H., 1973)[48] 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),[49] 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 dysfunctional human service worldEdit

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 1970’s, 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).[50]

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 some stick-to-it-ive-ness. However, in spite of the soundness of the principles, the tools they had acquired, and 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 subsequently 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).[51] 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. However, 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 particular society, in a particular time, might possess, those characteristics will be echoed by, and find expression in, that society’s human services. Therefore, serving with integrity depends on understanding how best to deal with the dynamics and disfunctionalities of those larger contexts, as well as with their impacts 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.” As the title indicates, 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 existing 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 and society, and personal contexts. Even more importantly, the workshop calls people to examine their own 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 for him or her self. Wolfensberger identifies this modernism as a root cause of the decline of modern society and a continuing threat, especially to lowly people. He exhorts his listeners to rigorously 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 and the times in which we find ourselves. To the contrary, it offers an indictment and a warning to those who would acquiesce to the prevailing values and morality. Wolfensberger identifies current 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 own 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 availability in the future, 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, with similar structure and purpose, around other 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 peopleEdit

One of the most controversial elements of Dr. 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.”  Dr. 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.  Dr. 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.

Dr. 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)[52]

Dr. Wolfensberger self-published a small monograph on the topic entitled The New Genocide of Handicapped & Afflicted People[53]--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.[54]

Though teaching about deathmaking, and the broader topic of societal decay and its implications for devalued people and for services to them, cost Dr. 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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Obituary: Wolf Wolfensberger, (3 March 2011), The Post-Standard (Syracuse, USA)
  2. ^ "UNMC McGoogan Library receives unique collection on care of mentally disabled," 24 Apr 2012
  3. ^ Wolfensberger, W. (2002). Needed or at least wanted: Sanity in the language wars. Mental Retardation, 40, 75-80.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Wolfensberger, W. (1972). The principle of normalization in human services. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Race, D. (1999). Social Role Valorization and the English experience. London: Whiting & Birch Ltd.
  10. ^ Wolfensberger, W. (1983). Social role valorization: A proposed new term for the principle of normalization. Mental Retardation, 21(6), 234-239.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ 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).
  13. ^ a b Kendrick, M. (1994). Why SRV is important.  SRV-VRS: The International Social Role Valorization Journal, 1(1), 14-18.
  14. ^ 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).
  15. ^ Wolfensberger, W. (1983). Social role valorization: A proposed new term for the principle of normalization. Mental Retardation, 21(6), 234-239.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ a b Wolfensberger, W. (1983). Social role valorization: A proposed new term for the principle of normalization. Mental Retardation, 21(6), 234-239.
  18. ^ Hollingsworth, J., & Apel, L. (2008, November). The 7 wonders of the world of disabilities. Exceptional Parent Magazine. 50-54,
  19. ^ Flynn, R., & Lemay, R. (1999). A quarter century of Normalization and Social Role Valorization: Evolution and impact. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
  20. ^ a b 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.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Duggan, M. (2010). The Value of SRV to People's Lives. The SRV Journal, 5(2), 10-14.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ a b 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.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ 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)
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ 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).
  41. ^ O’Brien, J. (2011). Celebrating The Genius of Wolf Wolfensberger. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Vol. 36(1-2), 76-79.
  42. ^ O’Brien, J. (2011). Celebrating The Genius of Wolf Wolfensberger. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Vol. 36(1-2), 76-79.
  43. ^ Wolfensberger, W. (2012). Chapter 6: Issues of Change Agentry the in Teaching, Dissemination and Implementation of Social Role Valorization, in Advanced Issues in Social Role Valorization Theory. (pp. 275-346. )Plantagenet, Ontario: Valor Press.
  44. ^ Wolfensberger, W. (2012). Chapter 6: Issues of Change Agentry the in Teaching, Dissemination and Implementation of Social Role Valorization, in Advanced Issues in Social Role Valorization Theory. (pp. 275-346. )Plantagenet, Ontario: Valor Press.
  45. ^ O’Brien, J. (2011). Celebrating The Genius of Wolf Wolfensberger. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Vol. 36(1-2), 76-79.
  46. ^ O’Brien, J. (2011). Celebrating The Genius of Wolf Wolfensberger. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Vol. 36(1-2), 76-79.
  47. ^ O’Brien, J. and Wolfensberger, W (1980). CAPE Standards for Citizen Advocacy program evaluation. Toronto: Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded
  48. ^ Wolfensberger, W. & Zauha, H. (1973). Citizen advocacy and protective services for the impaired and handicapped. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
  49. ^ O’Brien, J. & Wolfensberger, W. (1979). CAPE: Standards for citizen advocacy program evaluation. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
  50. ^ Schalock, Robert L., (2002). Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, American Association on Mental Retardation, Washington, D.C.
  51. ^ 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.
  52. ^ 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.
  53. ^ Wolfensberger, Wolf  (2002). The new genocide of handicapped and afflicted people (3rd rev. ed.). Syracuse, NY: Author.
  54. ^ 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 WolfensbergerEdit

  • Kugel, Robert B.; Wolfensberger, Wolf (1969). Changing Patterns in Residential Services for the Mentally Retarded. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Secondary SourcesEdit

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

External linksEdit