Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger 1934-2011
From Bruce Uditsky – It is with sadness and a sense of profound loss that the Alberta Association for Community Living acknowledges the passing of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger, one of the field’s most eminent scholars and critical thinkers. Dr. Wolfensberger is the author of a number of seminal theories and initiatives that have impacted the field of developmental disabilities over the last 40 plus years. His publication of the Theory of Normalization while a visiting scholar with the Canadian Association for Community Living National Institute in the early 1970’s set the stage for a revolution in thinking and acting. Dr. Wolfensberger was instrumental, in collaboration with colleagues, in the conceptualization of Citizen Advocacy, Program Analysis of Service Systems, Model Coherency, Program Analysis of Service Systems’ Implementation of Normalization Goals, Social Role Valorization and Moral Coherency, to name a few of many lasting accomplishments. He was an early leader in promoting deinstitutionalization, integration, the development of comprehensive community services and family advocacy.
Dr. Wolfensberger’s analysis of societal devaluation provided a coherent and cogent theory on why individuals with developmental disabilities have a present and historical heightened vulnerability to abuse and marginalization on so many levels. His work attempted to safeguard the lives of people with developmental disabilities and to inform the world of their gifts and contributions. As a critic of modernism and its harmful trends he called attention to the increasing threats to the very lives of people with developmental disabilities and for those who cared, to act with moral coherency.
I first met Wolf more than 35 years ago and I have remained indebted to him since. In that first learning experience he altered forever, as he did for so many, my perception of the world and my place in it, first as an advocate and later as a parent. His intellect, scholarly pursuit of knowledge, and capacity for critical analysis and to foretell the implications for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families was a gift to be treasured if not to be awed by.
He was rigorous in all his efforts, including his commitment to leadership development, resulting in a continuous and ever expanding series of training events that has led to a cadre of like-minded actors across the globe committed to do better by people with developmental disabilities. For me, Dr. Wolfensberger’s greatest legacy lies in fostering a questioning life – in establishing an enduring commitment to question, to seek truth and act as coherently as possible in valuing the lives of people with developmental disabilities.
Wolf’s spirit imbues much of the work of the Alberta Association for Community Living (AACL) and we will honour that spirit by continuing to challenge societal devaluation in standing with individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.
Our thoughts are with his family and closest friends.