Only two decades ago, Japanese society did not perceive confining disabled persons in institutions for life as a human rights violation. Today, the disability rights movement in Japan boasts 90 centres for independent living throughout the country that provide community-based services, as well as advocacy work. It also supports the independent-living movements of disabled people in other Asian countries. Its goal is the realisation of nationwide consumer-directed personal-attendant pro­ grammes that enable persons with any disabilities, regardless of their severity, to live independently in their communities. This paper introduces the history of the disability rights movement in Japan which has been the driving force for change in social norms and policies, and for improving the lives of disabled persons and their families.