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The Threshold Association is a disability organization that was founded in 1973 by disabled people and its main mission is based on three elements, human rights, independent living and culture, all to empower disabled people in Finland. They also have development projects in some third world countries. The head office is located in Helsinki, the capital, and the association has branches in five other cities in Finland: Tampere, Kuopio, Jyvaskyla, Oulu and Turku. It has 1,600 members.

Threshold is a cross disability organisation in that there people with mobility disabilities, blind, deaf etc in the membership The activities of the Threshold Association are based on the philosophy of the independent living movement. From 1988 it established this module and has since been raising awareness about the issue in Finland. The independent living philosophy’s main aim is to ensure that all disabled people have the freedom and opportunity to be able to do their daily activities may it be work, school, leisure activities etc and not be hindered by their disability. Important factors in these areas are advocacy, peer support, personal assistant system and other services for disabled people (transportation, sign language interpretation, access to information, access to the built environment etc.). The employees and decision makers in the organization are themselves disabled. The best trainer to a person with a disability is another person who has had similar experiences before.

Threshold Association receives most of its funding from the Finnish Slot Machines Association which finances many other nongovernmental organisations in Finland and which in turn receives its funding by having a monopoly for gambling and slot machines within Finland


The care of disabled people was mostly left to family members and although this had its good qualities like being with loved ones and not feeling lonely it was not very efficient for disabled people because the had to be under the control of the family members and the situation also made them feel as if they are a burden to the family.

To be able to achieve this dream of independent living, the founders of the Threshold Association traveled to many countries in Europe and other areas to observe how disabled people are able to cope with their daily schedules and after that came back to Finland and advocated for the implementation of the positive elements. The idea they came up with was to introduce personal assistants, who would help the disabled people according to their needs in their daily activities and they would be paid by the city.

The effort was good but it was not without difficulties and they recognized the need to improve the services and hence the project PAS (Personal Assistant System) came about.



The personal assistance system was introduced to Finland at the end of the 1980's. The personal assistance project was started in spring 2005 to address a number of issues where the system needed enhancing. The Threshold Association, The Finnish Neuromuscular Disorders Association, The Finnish MS Society and the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired came together and started a three year ongoing project with members from each organization forming the committee.

Description of the Personal Assistance System

Disabled people who cannot manage to do everyday activities due to their disability are entitled to a personal assistant. The disabled person contacts a social worker in their local argument, who then evaluates whether there is a need to provide a personal assistant. At this stage, disabled people say that the social workers sometimes are not able to discern all their needs and the level of help they need as individuals are unique and coping systems vary, so they should listen more to the disabled person, all within reason of course.

Once the need for an assistant has been established, the disabled person looks for a personal assistant; they now act in the position of an employer and have the right to hire anyone they feel comfortable with. The local government pays the personal assistant, either through the employer or then directly to the personal assistant. The personal assistant however does not deal with the social worker and all problems are solved through the employer.

The three main problems that PAS tried to address were:

  1. Problems related to knowledge and application of the Personal Assistant system, there was an insufficient level of understanding of the system at different levels of collaborators.
  2. Financial questions of the system of the personal assistance services, e.g. low salary level, different systems of paying wages in different places and the imperfect level of compensations including overtime pay, evening and night work.
  3. Difficulties related to everyday life of disabled person in the system e.g. lack of peer support, Insufficient training on how to be an employer, need for legal and other advice and availability of employees.


In the course of the project, there were several seminars held for the disabled people. One of the problems above was not having peer support and the seminars and meetings helped in that regard, they could share their experiences, learn what is expected of them in the role of an employer and also know how to work with personal assistants.

There were also seminars held for personal assistants, this also were for support because it is not an easy job but mostly for training them on how to work for a disabled person, learning the do’s and don’ts of the job and also recruiting other assistants in order to get replacements in case of illness or a problem.

The project was not aimed at disabled people only so other people’s knowledge to independent living was increased. There were action options that were created for the personal assistance services for the future when change will be necessary. The peer support groups however are still actively going on and are open to anyone.


There are three lawyers working in the Threshold Association (Helsinki). Their main task is offering individual counseling to disabled people living in Finland, whose rights have been infringed in any sort of way. The lawyers’ expertise and duties vary to offer a broad range of service. They offer advice on how to solve injustices and in cases where the issue cannot be resolved quickly they can is some cases write a formal complaint to the courts. Most of the advice is given through the telephone and emails but occasionally in person. Phone counseling is given on three days, altogether 30 hours per week by two lawyers. It has two essential goals, improvement of legal security of individuals with disabilities and secondly, through individual cases, the change of existing practices and decision making.

They also help in information retrieval, the centre has a library which specializes in disability, stocking Finnish and international literature, magazines and video tapes. The lawyers also give lectures and hold seminars with other organizations, to persons with disabilities and authorities alike, sometimes abroad, to raise awareness on the rights of disabled people and when needed aim to influence the legislation in regard to disability issues.  PA - network

in a national network to coordinate the varios personal assistant services taht exist for people with extensive diabiliteis in the whole of Finland. The project promotes the professional skills of various stakeholders of the system and raises awareness about the system.

This project started last year in 2005 and runs through until 2008. There is about 45 organizations working together and the aim is to create a network where disabled people can:
  1. Get any information
  2. Advice
  3. Information on how to get and work with personal assistants.
  4. Different forms to fill out for assistance etc.
  5. Legal help

The people in charge are disabled and this makes them able to give first hand knowledge in the issues. In Helsinki you can contact through email and calling hours are Wednesday 13.00 – 16.00 It is not a continuation of the PAS project but works in conjunction with it.
The network has organisede annual training seminars on the personal assistance system and inidipendent living philosophy. There have alos been several workshops on more specifice issues susch as human rihgts, the role of social services, housing and personal assistance, etc.


The key goal of the culture work is to make culture of persons with disabilities from distant area to an equal footing with other culture work. It aims to improve accessibility of culture and the way disabled persons see themselves.

There are art exhibitions every month at the Kynnys gallery, here art done by disabled people is displayed and everyone is welcome to come and view the work. The exhibitions are a big hit and usually there is a long wait to have the work displayed because very many people submit their work. There are no particular themes in the exhibitions, it’s open to all sorts of work and the work is done by both amateurs and professionals.

  • Film/Theatre courses are offered on some weekends from September to June. These are taught by professionals for a very small fee of about 10 Euros. The courses usually teach how to make films and short movies and also how to act and express yourself.
  • Art Courses also taught by professionals are offered, they meet in the Threshold premises. They are taught how to paint or better their style of work and advice is also given on best ways to profit from your work.

Kynnyskino (Threshold-film)

This project began in 1997 and next year in 2007 the 6th festival will be held. The event is held every two years. The purpose of the Kynnyskino is to make the film industry accessible to all. In these events short films acted and produced by disabled people are shown and then discussion forums, lectures, and meetings with film directors, as well as workshops follow. It is open to anyone interested in films, professional as well as amateur film makers.


The Threshold publishes a magazine called Kynnys (Threshold magazine) 5 times a year.


Working in cooperation with other organizations that work with disabled people, Kynnys organizes activities such as seminars, summer camps where young disabled people can interact, have fun and share their experiences.

Another important task that they deal with is going to companies and also schools to raise awareness of people on disability issues. Many organizations have construed ideas about hiring disabled people, most of them think it is a big risk to take because disabled people will have to take more time off and they might not cope with the work load but in most cases this is not the case, disabled people can pull their weight as well as other people. The reality is that there are many disabled people who well qualified but are not given a chance to work due to their disability.


The training of the Threshold focuses also on independent living for different groups and in many ways. The educational secretary, together with other members of staff, carries out the training and different activities.

Peer groups

There are a few peer groups like women, employers; minorities etc and they meet once a month in the Threshold premises. The groups are increasing and are now being encouraged to run themselves because there are not enough workers to run the groups, this is an ongoing process. The purpose of the peer groups is so that members can support each other and learn from each others experiences, exchanging knowledge with one another and also be aware that they are not alone in this world.


There are many courses that are offered in the Threshold for both disabled and non-disabled persons and their purposes are to increase knowledge on issues that disabled people live with daily e.g.
  • Boss courses: Disabled people are taught how to become employers and also how to work with assistants.
  • Advocacy afternoons: The objective of this course is to educate the public on disability issues.
  • Web courses: This is a new project that will be starting soon, it aims to teach interested disabled people how to use computers. Microsoft donated computers to the Threshold.
  • Summer academy: This is also a new 3-day project that will be starting this summer 2006 and hopefully continuing in the years to come.


Threshold Association represents the Independent Living movement in Finland and has close relations to Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI).


Threshold has also long tradition to implement development co-operation projects with the sister organizations. Today Threshold has a partnership programme with three separate sub-projects in Ethiopia and one specific project in Central-Asia. The partnership programme in Ethiopia consists of the following projects:
  • Empowerment of Disability Movement in Ethiopia '
  • Empowerment of Disabled women and their organization EWDNA (Ethiopian Women with Disabilities National Association)
  • Support and empowerment of Disabled students in Addis Ababa University

The co-operation project in Central-Asia is actively implementing activities in five (5) Central-Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The main purpose of the project is to empower disabled women through a network, training and peer support.

Threshold has a strategy to support and empower disabled people in different countries to participate and work actively for improvements of the conditions. The main component of the projects is the peer support.


E-mail format

Kalle Könkkölä, Director

  • (09) 6850 1112
  • 0500 503 516

Mari Tammelin, financial secretary
  • (09) 6850 1111

Susanna Haapala, education planner
  • (09) 6850 1117

Merja Asumaa, web design
  • only by e-mail

  Ismo Helén, culture secretary
  • (09) 6850 1132
  • 050 354 3979

Mika Välimaa,lawyer
  • (09) 6850 1129

Terhi Toikkanen, lawyer 
  • (09) 6850 1150

Tuomas Tuure, development co-operation
  • only by e-mail

Petri Kauppinen, Web programmer
  • by e-mail
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