Mental Illness and Disability in Norway


Norway overall practices inclusion of all individuals and so it follows standards of accessibility that allow everyone to access different areas, retailers, transportation, housing, employment and more.

Norway’s accessibility in various environments is standard in comparison to most other modernized first world countries. Most trains, long distance trains and buses feature wheelchair lifts and most provide a discount for the individual’s “assistant” whom his helping them on their journey.  All express boats in Norway have a rule that they must be wheelchair accessible and most car ferries are wheelchair accessible as well. All these transportation options also include handrails and other mobility supports to assist individuals with disabilities in being able to use those modes of transportation (“Travelling with disabilities in Norway”).

Many of the tourist destinations in Norway follow what they have termed as “Universal Accessibility” which follows universal design principles, allowing for all individuals to have access to these spaces and experience them.  One shining example of this is the The Bryggens Museum in Bergen. The museum has ramps for all 3 floors, regularly holds exhibits for individuals with hearing impairments and has permanent exhibits for individuals with blindness.

According to Norway’s Discrimination and Accessibility Act all public areas containing information and communication technologies must be universally designed and accessible to all individuals with all levels of ability (Begnum). This includes making them accessible to individuals with disabilities, hearing impairments and blindness in addition to all other disabilities.

The availability of assistive technology is available to all individuals with a qualifying long term or permanent impairment and falls under the responsibility of the local health authorities. There are assistive technology centres in each locality that is funded by the local authority and includes occupational therapists and physiotherapists which are responsible for accessing the need for various assistive technologies and acquiring them for individuals. The cost of these items is covered by funding from the local health authority and includes the repair and replacement of them.  There is a total of 18 assistive technology centres across the country (“Assistive Technology in Norway: A part of a larger system”).

Available accommodations for individuals with disabilities to stay at while visiting Norway are various and numerous. Most major chain hotels provide rooms that are accessible and provide the necessary accommodations for individuals with many different disabilities. With most accommodations falling within universal design concepts the limited areas in which accommodations may lack is within historical buildings that cannot or have not been converted over to universal design.

In terms of other accommodations employers and schools are required to offer accommodations to their employees and students based on their individual needs. (“Disabilities in Norway” 2017). This is up to and including the modification of physical spaces and environments, assistive technology, hours worked/attended shortened or shifted to support the individual with a disability.

Norway’s history of institutionalization for individuals with mental illness it has followed a similar path as the United States. Norway followed the method of housing individuals with mental illness in asylums up until 1955 then moving to institutionalization and trans-institutionalization from 1955-65, followed by the movement of stabilization and the onset of de-hospitalization from 1965-1975. The latter stages of Norway’s practice of institutionalization of individuals with mental illness started in 1975 with the de-hospitalization of housed individuals and moved toward nursing home and community-based programs from 1988-1998. In 1999 Norway’s national mental health programme came to the primary way of working with individuals with mental illness. Institutionalization and hospitalization are reserved for individuals who meet specifics legal benchmarks and have gone through a rigorous process of evaluation before becoming hospitalized or institutionalized, the primary reasons being that they are a mortal danger to themselves or others Norway’s national mental health programme has led to a sharp decrease in the number of individuals being hospitalized or institutionalized since it went into practice in 1999 (Bernhard Pedersen & Arnulf Kolstad, 2009).

Access to healthcare services

Norway’s access to healthcare and mental healthcare services are focused on universal accessibility and decentralization allowing for individuals to have the freedom of choice when it comes to what providers they see. Local health authorities govern their locales hospitals and outpatient treatment centers. There are very few small private hospitals which received their funding from the public. All Norwegian citizens are given the choice of which general physician they would like to see, and that provider will refer to specialized care as required, which is also covered under the national healthcare coverage, with 99% of Norwegians electing to do this (“The Norwegian health care system and pharmaceutical system”). The local health authorities are also responsible for funding community-based outpatient and intensive outpatient mental health programs and hospitals, which are accessible to all individuals electing the national healthcare coverage. Mental health treatment in Norway is based on trying non-medication treatment before initiating medication treatment (Forefront, 2017). The Ministry of Health and Care Services is the governing body of pharmaceuticals with the Norwegian Medicines Agency taking care of the classification, quality assurance, vigilance, reimbursement and education to providers and the public for all pharmaceuticals. Hospitals and community-based pharmacies are the only places allowed to dispense medications to the public. The fee for medications is determined on an individual basis if there is no generalized pricing for the medicines. Pharmaceuticals are covered by the national healthcare (“The Norwegian health care system and pharmaceutical system”).

Advocacy for mental illness and other disabilities:

  • Due to Norway’s focus on individual user’s freedom of choice and treatment when it comes to mental health and other disabilities and the local health authority’s responsibility to provide almost all necessary supports for individuals with mental illness and other disabilities there is a limited amount of advocacy organizations and services to assist individuals with mental illness and other disabilities.

Local community services

Regional resources for people with disabilities

  • Norwegian Association of Disabled

    –advocacy and support for individuals with all disabilities, they have a central administration in Oslo, 300 local councils, 9 regions, and 10 federations. Their Main central office in Olso can be contacted to reach further information about local and regional centers.

    • Norges Handikapforbund
    • Schweigaardsgt. 12
    • PO Box 9217 Greenland
    • 0134 Oslo
    • Tel: 24 10 24 00 (phone 09:00 – 15:00)
    • Fax: 24 10 24 99
    • E-mail:

  • Norwegian Youth Association for Youth (NHFU) –

    providing advocacy and support for youth with disabilities

    • NHFU
    • PO Box 9217 Greenland
    • 0134 Oslo
    • E-mail:
    • Phone: 24 10 24 00
    • Website:

Nationwide resources for people with disabilities.

  • We Shall Overcome

    – provides advocacy in the areas of human rights, autonomy and legal security within mental health services and the individuals who utilize them. Their focus is ensuring that the freedom and rights of individuals with mental illness are protected.

    • Postal Address: Østerdalsgata 1 L, 0658 Oslo
    • Visiting address: Østerdalsgata 1 L   Map
    • The office is open monday-wednesday-friday from kl. 12-15.
    • Please contact tel. 22413590
    • Website:


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  2. Accessibility for people with disabilities in Norway. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  4. Norway, Department of Assistive Technology. (2017). Assistive Technology in Norway: A part of a larger system.
  5. B. (2017, May 24). Disabilities in Norway. Retrieved from
  6. Bernhard Pedersen, & Arnulf Kolstad. (2009, December 25). De-institutionalisation and trans-institutionalisation – changing trends of inpatient care in Norwegian mental health institutions 1950-2007. Retrieved from
  7. The Norwegian health care system and pharmaceutical system. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  8. Forefront: Suicide Prevention. (2017, April 21). In Norway, medicine alone is insufficient in treating mental health. Here’s what we can learn from their solutions. Retrieved from
  9. Om WSO. (n.d.). Retrieved from

    Om WSO

  10. Lokale sentre. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  11. NAD. (n.d.). Retrieved from

    The Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD)

  12. NHFU. (n.d.). Retrieved from