Since the late 1960s, normalization has been "a deceptively simple concept," often misunderstood and redefined. Influential writers like Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger greatly expanded the concept and wrote about "social role valorization." Another of Wolfensberger's contributions was a description of the role perceptions of people with disabilities.
The following role perceptions illustrate how our society has categorized and viewed persons with disabilities. But note, these perceptions are neither exclusive nor exhaustive. It is too easy to assume that one stereotype fits a given time or a given disability. Our perceptions are often a combination of many stereotypes and attitudes.
Persons with disabilities as sick: Those who need to be cured of a dread disease; referred to as patients; in need of professional care in a hospital setting.
Persons with disabilities as sub-human organisms: Perceived as "animal-like" or "vegetative," or as "garden variety" or cultural-familial retardation; treated like animals in institutions; possessing less than full humanity and not deserving of all human rights; referred to as "so-called human beings."
Persons with disabilities as menaces to society: Perception that people with disabilities are somehow evil and represent a danger to themselves and to society; this perception leads typically to a concern for and measures leading to the destruction, segregation, containment, control, and persecution of persons with developmental disabilities.