Towards a collaborative ethic in intellectual disability services

Turnbull, David John (1998) Towards a collaborative ethic in intellectual disability services. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Available via Document Delivery only – contact your library to place a request
If you are the author of this thesis, please contact


This thesis examines collaboratively impoverished frameworks currently existing in services, and then presents a framework within which it is possible to work towards an ethically informed, collaborative engagement between people who have as a common interest, a person with an intellectual disability. The thesis explores three themes that are of great significance to both service providers and other participants in their relation to people with intellectual disability - those of personal identity, advocacy and self-advocacy. The relative impotence of service providers in being able to deal with structural problems concerning these themes, in the absence of a genuinely collaborative endeavor which is driven from an adequately resourced and motivated community base, is demonstrated. Critiques of services offered from philosophical positions are considered. Service models and philosophies adopted as a response to these critiques demonstrate, in their application, the difficulties that services have in operationalizing a pro-active ethical agenda. In considering these philosophies, the power and the role of services in constructing and maintaining devaluing and oppressive meanings associated with the phrase '0person with an intellectual disability' itself, is emphasised. Various ethical discourses are examined and it is shown that these, when undertaken within frameworks of understanding which take the autonomous, rational individual as the subject of the discourse, fail to offer sufficient guidance in the pursuit of the wellbeing of, and respect for, people with intellectual disability. This poses a central issue that any collaborative engagement between stakeholders needs to decide - the status as persons of people with intellectual disability.
The issue of ambivalence towards this status, which services seem to perpetuate, poses the central practical question: how is it possible to decisively resolve this ambivalence in favour of the full personhood and humanity of those who are labeled as having intellectual disability? A current service philosophy, Social role Valorisation (SRV), is discussed in considerable detail, to demonstrate the need for this philosophy to be situated in an explicitly ethical framework, in which personhood is acknowledged in all its strangeness, difference and relational diversity, if it is to be utilised collaboratively. The explicit socially normative under-pinning of SRV is shown to reinforce the 'non-person' status of those who fail to meet these normative criteria for acceptance. Thus SRV may on occasions be instrumentally directed to harmful outcomes. The intent of SRV is to protect the life of devalued people, as persons, so there is a need for a more explicitly ethical formulation. The contention of the thesis is that the nature of 'what is valued' with and for people with intellectual disability may only be determined collaboratively, in the context of relationships which give recognition to their intrinsic value as persons, not by reference to some abstract set of social norms. What this intrinsic value is however, can not be according to the attributes selected by some philosophers - autonomy and rationality - as being the essential defining characteristics of persons. Rather, intrinsic value must be a relational concept, derived from those who have a relationship with those with intellectual disability, directed to their respect and wellbeing. for a person with an intellectual disability, to be in relationship with people of such favourable dispositions is of vital importance. Yet it is also important that such people are afforded the recognition, from those less intimately involved, but who exercise power in the situation, that these relationships are the basis for defining social space and place for people who do not fit easily into the system. To be a person with intellectual disability therefore is dependent on the right to be in relationships of interdependency with others, and not be excluded socially as 'defective' because one is not autonomous. The nature of this interdependency, this anti-individualism, as a valid expression of humanity can only be supported through a collaborative engagement.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 35905
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Jordan, Trevor
Additional Information: Presented to the Faculty of Arts, Queensland University of Technology.
Keywords: People with mental disabilities Services for Moral and ethical aspects, collaborative ethics, intellectual disability, human services, applied ethics, social role valorisation, values, power, thesis, masters
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright David John Turnbull
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 13:03
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2017 02:13

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page