How Do Different Countries Treat People With Developmental Disabilities?
How a country treats its citizens with developmental disabilities varies widely, and no generalizations are possible. In his cross-cultural anthropologic work on traditional cultures in the 1960s, Robert Edgerton found wide variation, with some traditional cultures being fully inclusive of people with developmental disabilities and some traditional cultures rejecting and isolating people with developmental disabilities. Scandinavian countries are credited with providing the intellectual capital and practical innovations that have revolutionized the treatment of people with developmental disabilities throughout the world (Nirje, as cited in Dybwad 1969). This movement in English-speaking countries was characterized as normalization (Kugel and Wolfensberger 1969). Wolf Wolfensberger (1969) and Gunner Dybwad (1969) are widely credited as the key instrumental forces in bringing this concept to the United States and using the concept to change services in English-speaking countries. Although the United States is unique in the breadth of its legislation and policies in support to people with developmental disabilities, the advocacy movement for creating opportunities for self-determination and independence for people with developmental disabilities is truly international (Keith and Schalock 2000).
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