This paper aims at exploring the way in which categories of disability are shaped – and reshaped – and negotiated on the field through the dialectic between local and global representations and policies. The article is based on a long-term fieldwork in the urban setting of Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray in Northern Ethiopia. As a developmental state, Ethiopia puts in action a series of interventions with the goal of development and through its paradigm. Local agents of development assume that the problems experienced by the disabled people are the consequence of a lack of understanding, a “backwardness” and a “carelessness” of the Ethiopian society. I will reflect on this as a rhetoric and, analyzing the local discourses but even the institutional one as an historical and political product, I will try to shed lights on the great divide between institutional discourse and the real life of disabled people. Finally, it appears that the lack of infrastructures, the structural violence that nourish a vicious circle of poverty and debility, are more relevant than the so called “cultural attitudes”.