A new accessibility fund will provide financial support to Reykjavík businesses who want to increase the accessibility of their establishments. The fund was spearheaded by entrepreneur Haraldur Þorleifsson in collaboration with city authorities. Founder of design company Ueno, which was recently purchased by Twitter, Haraldur is a wheelchair user himself and recently moved home to Iceland from San Francisco.
Though Haraldur says he’s noticed many fun changes in Reykjavík’s downtown over the past few years, accessibility is lacking. “It happens very often that some meeting, celebration, ceremony, or simply a place I want to go to is not accessible. Of course, it sucks every single time, but what happens over a long period of time is that people become isolated. They start to pull themselves out of things of their own accord, even though they are maybe accessible, because they get a bit socially anxious or anxious that some problem might come up,” he told Vísir.
Covers Up to 80% of Renovation Costs
Even if they desire to increase accessibility at their establishment, the cost of renovations is prohibitive for many small businesses, states Haraldur. Last summer, he spoke to Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson and suggested the idea of a fund that would help businesses cover such costs. The idea was approved by Reykjavík City Council last Thursday.
The fund will focus on businesses in the city centre to start with and will pay up to 80% of the costs associated with installing ramps or other accessibility features. In addition to financial support, the initiative is intended to connect business owners with experienced contractors as well as streamline the process of obtaining licences for accessibility-related renovations.
Haraldur not only spearheaded the establishment of the fund, but he has also donated ISK 50 million ($385,000/€319,000) to the initiative. The City of Reykjavík has matched his donation, and other companies are organisations have also expressed interest in donating to the fund.
“Ueno has been very successful since I founded it and we’ve invested between ISK 10 and 15 million in good causes,” Haraldur stated. “I’m just going to try to keep it up and do better.”