A smooth-running city for all

Simo Vehmas has spent fifteen years in Helsinki, during which he has ‘gone native’ and fallen in love with his new home town.

“I’m just the kind of annoying hick who’s now pretending to be so Helsinki. I’ve fallen for the city’s charm. Helsinki is everything a city should be.”

Simo Vehmas is Finland’s first and only Professor of Disability Studies. Although an international discipline, disability studies is still in its infancy in Finland. Simo develops the teaching of disability studies and specialises in the theoretical and philosophical questions related to disabilities. This work is his bread and butter.


Accessibility important for more and more people

Accessibility issues have not yet made the top of the agenda in Helsinki. The reason for this lies in attitudes rather than money since, as the professor points out, development is not as expensive as people fear.

Simo Vehmas has been a consultant for the University of Helsinki and the Finnish National Museum on the accessibility of their buildings.

“There is still much to be done in Helsinki with regard to accessibility. We should take a broad view of accessibility, which includes people with seeing and hearing difficulties.”

Simon also calls for the development of accessibility on public transport. In addition, there is too little accessible housing.

“It should be possible for a person in a wheelchair to enter a cosy pub for a pint with a friend.”

Simo Vehmas hopes that senior figures in Helsinki become more aware of accessibility issues. As the population ages, these issues will affect more and more people. Services need to be of the kind that everyone can use, for example.

“A smooth-running city for all. No one should have anything against that.”


Text and picture: Siiri Mäkelä


Simo Vehmas chose Laura Sarvilinna as a maker of the Helsinki of the future.