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This article examines the spread of disability rights across European countries. Existing theoretical explanations of rights diffusion are unable to account for the pattern of adoption of disability equality norms across Europe over the last twenty years. The article argues top-down explanations need to be complemented by agent-centered approaches to convincingly account for the case of disability rights in Europe. Engagement with social movement theory that takes domestic activists and the meanings they attribute to rights seriously offers a better understanding of how and why we might see the rise of rights in one case and their rejection in another.