Source and to view the entire article, which includes a historical review of the social integration of persons with developmental disabilities, please see:
Disability Studies Quarterly Fall 2001, Volume 21, No. 4 pages 114-128
Copyright 2001 by the Society for Disability Studies
The Illusion of Inclusion: Geographies of the Lives of People with
Developmental Disabilities in the United States
Deborah S. Metzel, Ph.D.,Institute for Community Inclusion Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
Pamela M. Walker, Ph.D., Research and Training Center on Supported Living and Choice Center on Human
Policy Syracuse University
This article considers the historical and contemporary places of people with developmental disabilities
For people with developmental disabilities, as well as other disabilities and other minority status, space has been used to create and reinforce the prevalent social services mode that reflects the mixed and conflicting goals of those who fund services and supports. We will be addressing the spatial implications of two service designs: an initial design based on segregation and control by institutions which has dominated much of US history; and the more recently emerging community-based services design intended to redress the legacy of segregation and control.
Starting in the 1970s, Wolpert, Dear, Wolch and C. Smith, along with their many colleagues have greatly expanded the breadth and depth of geographical studies of mental health. In the 1980s Philo (later to be joined by Parr) began to describe the intricate historical geography of the “mad-business” in Great Britain. (Full citations to representative works by these authors can be found in the bibliography.) While the work of these geographers has relevance for people with developmental disabilities, it would be a mistake to simply generalize due to the “mental” adjective of developmental disabilities. In the 1980s, Radford, Park, Walker, and Metzel began to look more closely into various socio-spatial dimensions of the lives of people with developmental disabilities.
Now that most people in institutions have been re-located into communities, we are more concerned that this physical inclusion has not brought about social inclusion, full community membership and belonging, and valued roles for people with disabilities (e.g. Wolfensberger, 1972; Bogdan and Taylor, 1987; Schwartz, 1992) despite the claims that locations of services and supports are inclusionary. The first half of this paper examines the dubious inclusionary geographies of people with developmental disabilities from the colonial times through the mid-1900s. The second section addresses issues of contemporary service designs and their impact on people’s lives.