This article, based primarily on fieldwork conducted in two Centres for disabled people (MDPH – Maisons départementales des personnes handicapées), questions the notion of disability through analyzing the granting of the status of disabled worker (RQTH – Reconnaissance de la qualité de travailleur handicapé). Comparing observations and interviews with decision-makers and applicants highlights important shifts in ways of perceiving the issues of disability, and the concept itself. Thus, professionals seek to consolidate and protect the disability field with special attention to two boundaries: between diminished ability to work and inability, on the one hand, and between inability and normal ability, on the other. The applicants are paradoxically not necessarily looking for an acknowledgment of disability. The reasons for their request vary with their position to employment and their life course. The paper analyses the social effects of these shifts, which vary with social background, but also with local context. Caught in the tension between the right to work and the right to non-work, the field of disability reveals itself as a good gate to capture wider contemporary transformations of social issues.
- life course
- social policies