Sanna Kalmari

Sanna Kalmari

It's easy to get a hold of Helsinki.

"If a place is not accessible, it cannot develop a community feeling. I like Helsinki's 'design for all' thinking: the idea that environments are designed for everyone."

Sanna Kalmari is an accessible travel expert. She spent her youth in Espoo. For Kalmari and her friends, Helsinki was a city where you went on excursions. "It was a city of diverse possibilities, and I dreamed of moving there. My first home in Helsinki was on Katajanokka." 

Kalmari has moved back to Espoo, but visits Helsinki frequently. She is attracted by the compact size of the city. "Helsinki is big but also small. I like that it is so easy to move around and to get a grip on the city. I love the maritime feeling most of all." 

Helsinki has always been a place where Kalmari meets up with friends. The city fosters a strong community feeling, for which accessibility is a prerequisite. "Accessibility is needed in all customer categories – from families with children to luxury travellers." 

"Services should be highlighted more"

Kalmari writes the popular blog Palmuasema on accessible travel (in Finnish). "Many people have told me that there is no other place that offers a similar wealth of information on accessibility, which is also a troubling fact. People appreciate that I have personally tested a certain place and, for example, filmed a video clip of a hotel room with me moving around in an electric wheelchair." Some readers have told Kalmari that they visited the same exact places on their holidays as on her blog to ensure that they are truly accessible.

Kalmari wishes that companies would share more information about accessibility on their websites. A picture of the main entrance and bathroom facilities would be very helpful to persons with restricted mobility. A person with vision impairment will need information in a textual form that can be picked up by their reading device. "There are, of course, many accessible restaurants and services in Helsinki. This should be more proudly marketed, because there are a lot of people who require accessible services. One shouldn't be afraid of saying the wrong thing. There are accessibility experts who can also advise on producing information."

Accessibility benefits everyone. For persons with disabilities, accessibility is a prerequisite to participation as well as a human right. "Helsinki is not yet ready in terms of accessibility, but it is heading in a good direction. As for myself, I experience a sense of freedom when I can spontaneously move around within Helsinki. The best examples of accessible services are found on the metro and in shopping centers." 

Kalmari does not wish for special arrangements for herself – she just wants access to the same places as everyone else. "That's why I like cities. I can be one of many, a part of the crowd. I love that." 

Sanna Kalmari 
: 35 
Lives in: Espoo
Profession: Accessible travel expert
What you didn't know about me: "I'm excited if I can climb atop some rocks. The best thing is if there is a view that opens up. My favourite spot is at the open rocks of Meilahti. There is a gently sloping top of a rock that you can reach with an electric wheelchair. That's exceptional."

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