In this guest blog, our Sangre x startups guest speaker Joel Hentunen shares the story of Riesa, the startup born from a pressing need to make surroundings and service encounters accessible for the disabled.
Over 50% of disabled people face negative attitudes
My name is Joel Hentunen, and we are Riesa Consultative - a service design company with a purpose to advance accessibility. We consist of four creators, Mika, Anni and Atso in addition to myself. Anni and Atso need wheelchairs in their everyday lives because of their disabilities. Along with many other Finnish people with disabilities, they feel at times discriminated because of their disabilities. In fact, almost 50% of Finnish people with disabilities feel that attitudes towards the disabled are negative in commercial product and service supply (Disability Report 2016). That’s an enormous number of people, since according to THL at least 7% of Finns are with disabilities.
Atso and Anni were wondering how to advance accessibility effectively in their own surroundings. Something had to be done. They asked Mika and myself to join them in innovating new ways to advance accessibility, and so, Riesa Consultative was established in 2018.
“The idea about starting a service design company to advance accessibility originated from an urgent need to improve accessibility in our own surroundings.”
Our name comes from the word riesa, which is Finnish for “pain in the ass”. Accessibility can be seen as a pain in the ass, if you don’t know what you are doing. All together we hold over 80 years of experience on accessibility. Our expertise has accumulated from work in non-profit and commercial organizations, accessibility education, life experience and numerous trainings. We exist to make accessibility practical, functional and affordable. Accessibility is our passion and expertise.
Improving accessibility in the built environment
Accessibility is often perceived as costly and hard to achieve. And we agree to an extent - accessibility is more expensive to achieve after buildings are built in a non-accessible way to begin with. However, when accessibility is taken into consideration already in the design phase, accessibility-related costs are significantly smaller. That’s why we offer consultancy in the design phase, when accessibility solutions are the most cost effective and lasting.
That being said, accessibility doesn’t always have to cost a lot even in environments that were originally built non-accessible. A lot of real estate that has been built before universal design was endorsed by law. That’s why we also provide functional and affordable solutions to improve accessibility in non-accessible environments.
Accessible encounters make up for gaps in the environment
As mentioned earlier, over half of Finnish people with disabilities feel that attitudes towards the disabled are negative - and people with disabilities face these negative attitudes in services everywhere they go. That’s why we provide accessibility training for businesses to better encounter people with disabilities in their business environment. A UK based study on disability and business shows that investment in accessibility brings new satisfied customer groups within companies’ reach. Despite the fact that similar studies are yet to be executed in Finland, we find the study applies also to Finnish society. Our accessibility training gives cost-effective tools to advance companies’ service accessibility. Accessible service can in fact mend accessibility gaps in the built environment.
Riesa is your personal accessibility specialist
Event planning is a good example where accessibility in the built environment meets accessible encounters. We can make events accessible, whether it’s a festival, exhibition or sports event you’re planning.
People with disabilities are not the only customer group that benefits from accessibility. Elderly people often have challenges with mobility and directly benefit from accessibility. Associates of people with disabilities also benefit from accessibility, since they consume accessible services together with their friends and family with disabilities.
We’re eager to put our 80 years of accessibility experience to work to find solutions for your business’ accessibility needs and make the world accessible together!
To find out more about Riesa Consultative, check out their website. Our Sangre x startups event and podcast series brings together and showcases some of the most interesting startups and teams with a startup mindset.