Social inclusion revisited: Sheltered living institutions for people with intellectual disabilities as communities of difference

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic


The dominant idea in debates on social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities is that social inclusion requires recognition of their ‘sameness’. As a result, most care providers try to enable people with intellectual disabilities to live and participate in ‘normal’ society, ‘in the community’. In this paper, we draw on Pols’s (2015) empirical ethics of care approach to give an in-depth picture of places that have a radically different take on what social inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities looks like: places known as ‘sheltered living institutions’. We argue these places can be seen as ‘communities of difference’ catered to the specific needs and capacities of the residents. We then contend that these communities raise questions about what a good life for people with intellectual disabilities looks like and where and how it ought to be realised; questions not posed very often, as they get muzzled by the dominant rhetoric of normalisation and the emphasis on sameness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-213
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022


  • social inclusion
  • intellectual disability
  • (de)-institutionalisation
  • difference
  • empirical ethics

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