The Genius of the Principle of Normalization [PDF]

Education in Applying The Principle Of Normalization As A Factor In The Practical Arts of Improving Services For Socially Devalued People

John O’Brien

1995 – June

A Design for Learning

In the development of better services for socially devalued people, the genius of the principle of normalization* flows from the practical interaction of three components. Two of these components are ideas, arising from its definition, and one is educational, arising from a common (though by no means universal) teaching practice.

This is a chapter prepared for an volume, edited by Robert Flynne and Raymond LeMay, of the proceedings of the 25th Anniversary Conference on the Principle of Normalization, held in Ottawa, Ontario in June 1995.


Failure to appreciate either the power of social devaluation or the promise of working hard to continually expand what is possible, blunts the principle of normalization’s effectiveness as a guide for the creation of better services and feeds the widespread temptation to approach deep and enduring ethical issues with superficial and transient techniques. Only by forming and sustaining heart-to-heart alliances with devalued people can people concerned to improve services walk the complementary paths of detachment and creation toward a somewhat more just and inclusive community.