The 1st IA was held in Tokyo in 1981 to commemorate the United Nations' International Year of Disabled Persons. It received the wide support of both governmental and non-governmental organizations. His Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince (Present Emperor of Japan) served as Patron of the 1st IA.
Japan has held the vocational skills contests for persons with disabilities since 1972 with the aims of improving the vocational skills of people with disabilities in order to promote their participation in socio-economic activities. The title "Abilympics" was coined from the phrase "Olympics of Abilities."
The Abilympics have helped to overturn traditional views in regard to the skills, potentials and abilities of disabled persons, resulting in increased employment opportunities and vocational stability.
The experience and expertise of Japan's National Abilympics was utilized at the 1st IA. In addition to the skills contests, there were various demonstrations, exhibitions and international seminars were held, all of which contributed to raise public awareness on the subject of persons with disabilities, their vast potential and the contribution that they can make to the society.
The success of the 1st IA inspired Colombia to hold the 2nd IA in 1985. During this 2nd IA, it was proposed to establish an international organization in order to promote the IA and to hold it on a regular basis.
After many discussions held among people who had been involved in the IA, the International Abilympic Federation (IAF) was established during the 3rd IA held in Hong Kong. This was a big step forward in realizing the philosophy of the Abilympics.
Since then, the IA has been held in Perth, Australia (1995), Prague, Czech Republic (2000), Delhi, India (2003), Shizuoka, Japan (2007), which was held concurrently, for the first time, with the WorldSkills Competitions, and in September 2011, the 8th IA was successfully organized in Seoul, Korea under the banner of "Unlimited Challenge to the World."
The IA has been and will continue to be organized by a host organization that is chosen by the IAF Assembly, and co-hosted by the IAF and Rehabilitation International (RI: http://www.riglobal.org/
The IA is striving to win wide support from all over the world in its dream to realize a society where people with and without disabilities have equal rights and opportunities.