In this paper I use international differences in disability rates as a window to address the question how national culture influences a nation’s understanding and practice of disability. I apply the well-established distinction between individualistic and collectivistic cultures to explore the relationship between culture and disability rates. I argue and find support for the hypothesis that individualistic cultures exhibit higher rates of disability. In the second part I add cultural and institutional detail to the account. While individualistic and collectivist cultures both value assistance to the disabled, only the Western individualist tradition produces a rights-based approach to disability.