What’s Good About Inclusion? An Ethical Analysis of the Ideal of Social Inclusion for People with Profound Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities

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‘Social inclusion’ is the leading ideal in services and care for people with intellectual disabilities in most countries in the Global North. ‘Social inclusion’ can refer simply to full equal rights, but more often it is taken to mean something like ‘community participation’. This narrow version of social inclusion has become so ingrained that it virtually goes unchallenged. The presumption appears to be that there is a clear moral consensus that this narrow understanding of social inclusion is good. However, that moral consensus is not clear in the case of people with profound intellectual and/or multiple disabilities (PIMD), who are not able to express their needs and preferences verbally. Moreover, social inclusion has proven to be difficult to conceptualize and implement for people with PIMD. Therefore, it becomes imperative to ask about the ethical rationale of the narrow understanding of social inclusion. For what reasons do we think social inclusion is good? And do those reasons also apply for people with PIMD? This article addresses these questions by providing an ethical analysis of the ideal of social inclusion for people with PIMD. It discusses four ethical arguments for social inclusion and probes their relevance for people with PIMD. The article argues that none of these arguments fully convince of the value of the narrow understanding of social inclusion for people with PIMD. It ends with advocating for an ethical space for imagining a good life for people with PIMD otherwise.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Care Analysis
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2023


  • Ethics
  • Intellectual disability
  • Profound intellectual and/or multiple disabilities
  • Social inclusion

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