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ramps downtown Reykjavík
Photo: Golli.

President Raises Goal to 1,500 Ramps

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson raised the target goal of Ramp Up Iceland at a press event for the organisation this Monday, November 21, from 1,000 new ramps to 1,500.

The president “heckled” Ramp Up founder Haraldur Þorleifsson, interrupting his presentation by spray-painting over the poster with his new, more ambitious goal. 

Ramp Up Iceland is an initiative which aims to increase accessibility to people in wheelchairs throughout Iceland. Ramp Up coordinates between businesses, contractors, and state and city authorities to make applying for permits and grants easier. Ramp Up originally had a goal of 1,000 handicap-accessible ramps in Iceland by 2026, but this goal has now been raised to 1,500.

Haraldur Þorleifsson, a Twitter employee, is notable as one of Iceland’s highest taxpayers. The founder of the Ramp Up initiative, he has used his income from the sale of his company Ueno to Twitter to fund this philanthropic project, among other things. Haraldur is also noteworthy as an outspoken proponent of Iceland’s social system, choosing to pay income instead of capital gains tax on the Ueno sale, citing the many advantages he has received through his Icelandic education and healthcare.

The Ramp Up press event took place in Mjódd, a bus station, in celebration of the 300th ramp built under the initiative.

During the event, the president asked if 1,000 ramps would be enough, and interrupted Haraldur to spraypaint over his previous goal.

In response, Haraldur stated: “Guðni is of course the president, so when he says something, we have to listen.” He continued: “We all live in a community together, and when people need help, then we all have a responsibility to help out. I am just happy to be able to contribute.”

Many businesses and public places throughout Iceland remain inaccessible to people in wheelchairs, especially older buildings. Haraldur has, however, stated that the overall reaction to his initiative has been very positive.

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