Information for people with disabilities in Finland

Tietoa toimintarajoitteisille Suomessa
This article describes the rights of people with disabilities to various services and types of support in Finland.

The lives of people with disabilities in Finland are supported in many ways. Below you can find information on moving and housing, assistants and assistive devices, medicines, vehicles, employment and allowances. There is also information on bringing assistive devices, medicines and guide dogs into the country as well as on social welfare services and how to appeal decisions.

Moving and housing

Under Article 9 of the Nordic Social Security Convention, the relevant authorities must assist people with disabilities if they move. General information on housing can be found in the section Housing in Finland.

Local authorities have a duty to ensure that people with disabilities can move if

  • the person is moving of their own free will,
  • the person has particular connections to the country they intend to move to, and
  • it is expected that the person’s life situation will improve in the new country.

If a disabled person personally feels that the move will improve their life situation, this is in itself a strong reason that the move should be made. Contact your municipality of residence to get assistance with your move If necessary, mention Article 9 of the Nordic Social Security Convention.

You can find more information on living in Finland with disabilities in the Handbook on Disability Services of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Apartments and sheltered housing for people with disabilities

Some municipalities have so-called disabled apartments for people with disabilities. Getting an apartment very much depends on which municipality a person with a disability moves to and what sort of apartment the person is able to live in.

Note that with housing for people with disabilities, municipalities in Finland must provide certain social services regardless of their budgets, i.e. they have a particular obligation to provide these.

Under Section 8 of the Act on Disability Services, a municipality must provide sheltered housing, among other things, for a person with a severe disability, if due to their impairment or illness it is essential for the person to have services to carry out everyday activities. This does not apply to persons in institutional care, however.

For questions about moving, is advisable to contact your new municipality of residence to get information on the housing situation for people with disabilities in that particular municipality. If necessary, you can also ask the authorities in your present municipality of residence to contact your new municipality.

Assistants, dogs and assistive devices

Many people with disabilities need an assistant to make their everyday lives run smoothly. This naturally also applies to travelling and moving.

Personal assistants

If you move permanently to another Nordic country, you should apply to your new municipality of residence for support for a personal assistance. There may be a long processing time, however, so it is advisable to contact your new municipality of residence in good time.

If you are resident in another Nordic country for a short period, municipalities will in certain cases grant support for the costs of an assistant. If your journey, employment or studies are longer-term (maximum six months), municipalities will only rarely pay the costs of a personal assistant. Ask your municipality of residence what support is available. 

Guide dogs

Finnish legislation does not contain specific guidelines on importing guide dogs to Finland; the same rules apply to guide dogs as for other dogs. The rules on importing dogs are described on the page Importing pets and domestic animals to Finland.

Assistive devices

There are no general rules between the Nordic countries on importing or exporting assistive devices since different rules apply to different devices. Among other things, the rules depend on whether an assistive device is removal goods, whether the device has been obtained with public support, whether the device is attached to the body and whether the device is covered by the country’s customs regulations. Import-related questions are therefore largely subject to special legislation.

If your stay in Finland is temporary, such as a holiday or visiting relatives, assistive devices may be taken from one Nordic country to another.

If you are planning to move to Finland permanently from another Nordic country, it is recommended that you contact your current municipality of residence and your new municipality of residence in Finland to get the relevant advice.

Cars

Imports of cars used by persons with disabilities are covered by the same rules as for imports of other cars. Importing cars is covered in the section Vehicles in Finland.

Vehicle tax

Persons with disabilities may be exempted from basic vehicle tax without application if an entry of refund of car tax under section 50 or 51 of the Car Tax Action has been made in the vehicle register. If you have a parking card for people with disabilities, you can apply to be exempted.

You need to re-apply for exemption whenever you change your car and when your parking card expires. Exemption from basic vehicle tax can be granted on the basis of the same person’s disability for one vehicle only at a time. Vehicle tax must be paid on the due date, even if your application is pending. If the application is approved, the tax paid is refunded. More information on the Traficom website.

Refund or relief of car tax

Under section 51 of the Car Tax Act, the car tax included in the price of a car first registered in Finland can be refunded, either wholly or partly, to a person with a disability. Refunds are granted on the basis of the nature and severity of the applicant’s disability and the support is capped at a maximum amount. The nature and severity of the disability are always determined by a doctor.

In some cases, car tax can be refunded on the basis of a disability in the form of tax relief. Finnish Customs can grant relief from car tax on the basis of section 50 of the Car Tax Act. In that case, the tax can be refunded for especially compelling reasons either in full or in part, as deemed reasonable. For example, car tax has been refunded in the form of tax relief to parents for whom a car is necessary to transport their severely disabled child.

Support for the purchase of a car

Under the Act on Disability Services, support can be granted for the purchase of a used or new car. You can be compensated for half the actual costs of the car. Deductions are made for any refund of car tax, trade-in of an old car and any other support received for the car. You can apply for support for the purchase of a car even if you have not received a refund of car tax.

Under transport and accident insurance legislation, support for the purchase of a car can only be given to persons with severe disabilities who go out to work.

Car modifications

Under the Act on Disability Services, essential modifications to a standard-model car necessitated by a disability are paid for (controls, power steering, swivel seat, wheelchair lift). The modifications are paid for in full, but within the available budget, because this is not a so-called subjective right. Under the Act on Disability Services, half of the costs of equipment to facilitate the use of the car can also be paid for.

Motor and accident insurance companies also reimburse the costs of modifications to cars. Ask your insurance company for more details.

Parking card for people with disabilities

Ajovarma can issue a parking card for people with disabilities for persons with severe disabilities or transporting persons with disabilities. Apply for the card at Ajovarma’s customer service point or on Traficom’s e-services.

Discount on motor liability insurance

Some insurance companies offer discounts on motor liability insurance for persons with disabilities. Check this with your insurance company. 

Effects of disability or illness on employment

If you need modifications or special arrangements at work owing to your disability or illness, you can get help from the TE Office. The TE Office will help if you need information on employment opportunities and how to keep your job despite having a disability or illness.

Employers can also get a subsidy for arranging working conditions from the TE Office so that you can stay in your existing job with your disability or illness or start in a new job. The subsidy for arranging working conditions is applied for by employers.

Kela disability benefits and interpreter service

The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) grants disability allowances on the basis of the Act on Disability Benefits. These are designed to help persons living in Finland with a disability or chronic illness to cope in everyday life, participate in employment or studies and maintain their functional ability, living at home, rehabilitation and care. Kela also provides an interpreter service to support persons with hearing impairment, hearing and visual impairment or speech impairment.

Find out more about this on the Kela website.

Student exchanges

Students going on a higher education exchange or members of higher education staff who have a disability, illness, learning difficulty or other special needs can get extra financial support to participate in an international exchange. Special needs grant is intended for example for accessible accommodation, assisted mobility or study-related arrangements such as learning materials.

Medicines

The Nordic countries are part of the Schengen agreement and are committed to lenient rules on personal imports of medicines. As a rule, you can bring in medicines from Nordic countries for your own personal use up to a maximum corresponding to one year of use.

How to appeal

If as a social welfare customer you are not satisfied with the service, assistance, care or treatment you receive, you can

  • contact the head of the office that made the decision
  • contact the Social Ombudsman
  • dispute your treatment with the person responsible in the social welfare unit, or the senior social welfare official
  • lodge a complaint with the monitoring authority, i.e. the Regional State Administrative Agency, the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland or the Chancellor of Justice. In some cases, the Regional State Administrative Agency may refer a complaint to the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health Valvira.

Applicants for social welfare services and social assistance are entitled to get a reasoned decision in writing. The decision explains what the appeal procedures are. You can make a claim for rectification of a decision by a social welfare official to the municipal body responsible for social welfare services within 14 days of being informed of the decision. If you are not satisfied with decisions made by benefit-granting institutions, such as Kela or an insurance company, you can lodge an appeal to the Social Security Appeal Board, which is the first appellate authority.

You are entitled to appeal a decision by a municipal body (for example the social welfare board) to the administrative court within 30 days. 

You can lodge a complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsman or the Chancellor of Justice if you suspect that an authority or official has not has not complied with the law or fulfilled their obligations. The Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice cannot, however, amend or overturn previous administrative decisions made by authorities. They can issue a reminder, reprimand or warning to an official or launch a preliminary criminal investigation.

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NB! If you have questions regarding the processing of a specific case or application, or other personal matters, please contact the relevant authority directly.

Info Norden is the information service of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Here you can find info and tips if you wish to move, work, study, seek support or start a business in the Nordic region.