While disabled people embody a classical figure of vulnerability, this paper shifts the focus of attention to the vulnerability of their social rights. I address this question normatively and empirically. From a normative point of view, a common framing of disability rights as civil rights, under the influence of the Americans with disabilities Act (ADA), has tended to impede the discussion on disability social rights. By re-asserting that social rights are fundamental human rights, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) contributes to bringing them back to the forefront of disability research. However, the realization of disability social rights also needs to be empirically assessed. Based on theories of social rights as well as on Weberian sociology of law, I point to two major ideal-typical characteristics of social rights: they are expected to reduce uncertainty, especially regarding the evolution of one’s autonomy, and to foster a sense of citizenship. I then study the reception of two types of disability benefits in France, the Adult disability benefit (AAH) and the Disability compensation benefit (PCH), to assess to what extent these promises of social rights translate into the experiences of disabled citizens. My analysis is based on 30 biographical interviews with people with either visual or mobility impairments, conducted between 2014 and 2016. The results show the persistent vulnerability of disability social rights in France, pointing to the importance of the procedural dimension of rights realization.
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