Disembodied abilities: Sick role and participation in 'activating' return-to-work practices

L. van Hal*, A. Meershoek, F. Nijhuis, K. Horstman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In 'active welfare states', labour participation is regarded essential for being part of and contributing to society. In the striving for an increase in labour participation of people who were considered (partly) disabled for work, not 'disabilities', but 'abilities' are put centre stage in vocational rehabilitation programmes. In this article we explore what this change in focus means in practice. We do this by investigating tensions experienced by participants of vocational rehabilitation practices that aim at facilitating return-to-work for people with disabilities. Our analysis derives from stories that clients and professionals told about daily experiences with disability, vocational rehabilitation and (labour) participation. These stories illustrate the logic embedded in vocational rehabilitation practices. Our analysis demonstrates that this logic, that focuses on will power, stable abilities and employability, hampers the realization of labour participation for a part of the population. We conclude that a logic of embodiment in which lived experiences of clients are acknowledged and in which it is explored what clients are concretely able to do in a specific context may be better equipped to facilitate return-to-work. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-16
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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