Bengt Nirje on Normalization
Produced by David Goode / The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Produced in 1993.
Bengt Nirje: It was really not that much difference between refugees and young disabled people. Because none of the backgrounds of the refugees didn't count. And who would believe them, what they told because they didn't have any papers and young people… and the younger group didn't have papers And [Inaudible] both groups are powerless in their present situation, in their refugee camp and in their present situation. They couldn't go… if they wanted to do something. They couldn't just go out the door and go to the movies even if their parents said no. And they had no influence in the institution by the way. [Inaudible] And they had no… the difference was that the refugees had a hope for the future. The [Inaudible] had no hope for their future.
And I learned what it meant to be beggars to be infantilized and to be made powerless. Not only having a disability to cope with but also having powerlessness, the social powerlessness to deal with. [Inaudible] And then when I came to the Parents Association for the Mentally Handicapped. That was [Inaudible] to organize them and get them going and get new legislation and all this kind of thing. But this was what I brought with me. The point of view that I brought with me, because I insisted on dealing and meeting people that were mentally handicapped. And I did that and was allowed to do that. [Inaudible] But then of course, I had to go into children's institutions [Inaudible]. I learned a lot.