Barken, R. (2010). Intellectual disabilities & institutionalization in Nova Scotia. The SRV Journal, 5(2), 26-33.
Despite broader trends toward deinstitutionalization, over seven hundred Nova Scotians with intellectual disabilities currently live in institutional settings. In response this paper examines the socio-cultural, political, and economic imperatives for the institutionalization and deinstitutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities. It provides a critique of institutional models in general, and of Nova Scotia’s current residential services policies. While community models of support present a promising alternative to institutionalization, this paper cautions that institutions are often re-created in community settings. This paper thus suggests that an institution is not simply defined by the number of residents, but by the characteristics of the environment that enable or restrict residents to enjoy the same freedoms and responsibilities that the majority of other people do in their own homes. This article is based on preliminary research conducted for an MA thesis in Sociology, in which I examine the reasons why Nova Scotians with intellectual disabilities continue to be institutionalized and the barriers that exist to embracing policies of deinstitutionalization in the province.