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While people continue to debate the precise meaning of normalization, the concept's effect on how we view institutions has been significant.

With the acceptance that persons with disabilities could and should live in the community with their own families and as independent adults, the pressure for more and better community services grew in intensity.

By the late 1960s, with the potential of community services clearly demonstrated, the rationale for the continued existence of large institutions was called into question. The role of parents in organizing, working with and sometimes against "the system," was greater than ever.


In 1980, Charlotte Des Jardins wrote an organizing manual specifically for the growing parents' movement. She offered this advice from her book How to Organize an Effective Parent/Advocacy Group and Move Bureaucracies:

  • You must stop feeling guilty and insignificant.
  • You must stop apologizing for asking a bureaucrat to do a job you are paying him to do.
  • You must stop begging for what you are entitled to by law.
  • You must not accept these old excuses: "There isn't enough money"; "We need more time."
  • You must stop whispering when everyone else is shouting.
  • Don't be afraid to complain.
  • You must use mass action.

Although originally directed at parents, these words are relevant today for all disability advocates and self-advocates

Charlotte Des Jardins
Charlotte Des Jardins