Equal Access at the University of Helsinki

First Steps for International Students who have a Disability or Learning Difficulty

Are you considering studying at the University of Helsinki or are you currently a student and do you have a disability or a learning difficulty? The University of Helsinki is committed to promoting equality and preventing discrimination in all its operations. However, finding the right kind of help can be difficult and confusing. Below you can find information in English on the first steps you can take to get the accommodation you need!

If you want to download the whole step-by-step guide, click here.

Before you apply

1. Become familiar with the University of Helsinki and its accessibility processes

      • Start at the webpage for special arrangements.
      • Chat with current students to hear about their experiences.
      • Feel free to email specialneeds@helsinki.fi, admissions@helsinki.fi, and/or the director of the programme you wish to apply to. You can find the director’s contact information through the programme’s webpage or “People Finder”. Try to ask specific questions that cannot be found by looking on the website. 
      • Consider reaching out to Hyero, “The University of Helsinki’s Different Learners Association” at hyero-hallitus@helsinki.fi (their website is in Finnish but they are able to communicate in English).
      • Do not hesitate to contact Orbis, a student organization for international and internationally-minded students at the University of Helsinki. Orbis is an org for students in Arts and Theology but we are happy to assist any international student with regards to equality issues. Email orbis@helsinki.fi

2.  Secure a certificate of special arrangements from a doctor in your home country. At this stage, the “personal identity code” can be your passport number.

 


As soon as you are accepted

1. Confirm your study right/accept your study place

    • Do this as soon as possible because you may not be able to access some information and assistance until you are officially a student.
    • Depending on where you are coming from, the confirmation process will differ. Follow the instructions emailed to you upon acceptance.

2. Email specialneeds@helsinki.fi and request a zoom meeting with an accessibility liaison

    • Have the liaison review your certificate of special arrangements and determine whether you need any other documentation.
    • Request a review of your rights at the University of Helsinki and in Finland.
    • Discuss the resources available to you and how to make your transition to UH as smooth as possible.
    • Discuss your options for anonymity, privacy, as well as self-disclosure.
    • Have the liaison find the contact information of the training officer for your specific Master’s programme.

3. Set up a meeting with the director of your specific Master’s programme (we recommend that the accessibility liaison and/or training officer is also present in this meeting)

    • Request information about courses and their schedules for the upcoming semester so that you know what to expect and can plan ahead.
    • Identify what you need in order to have an equal learning opportunity (materials, information, space, tools, etc). 
    • Get a clear plan of how the director will prepare and inform professors, administrators, and tutors and make sure the plan aligns with your decisions about privacy and disclosure. If they need support, refer them to the accessibility liaison. 

4. Get familiar with the Student Union (HYY) and other resources outside the university

    • As you plan your move to Finland, there will be many non-academic matters to settle, like residency and housing. If you run into equality or accessibility issues, HYY may be able to assist or advocate for you in these matters. The specialist for international students and equality is a good first contact.
    • There are also other organizations that offer support for immigrants with disabilities. If you struggle to contact one of these organizations because of a language barrier or any other reason, reach out to your accessibility liaison and/or a HYY representative for help.

 


Once you arrive in Helsinki

1. Get the most out of Orientation

    • You and your classmates will have at least one study tutor. Utilize their knowledge and assistance- for example, if you need help furnishing your apartment or getting enrolled in the Student Union.
    • If possible, attend the Welcome Fair. This will help with getting registered with the authorities. Make sure to note the different steps, depending on whether you are coming from the EU or from outside it. 
    • During orientation, if not before, you will get access to your email address and the university’s intranet. Familiarize yourself with the information on equality, diversity, and accessibility, on Flamma
    • Become acquainted with the university’s physical and digital library, and if it is useful for you, check out the public library system too.
    • If you are coming from outside the EU, it will make your life a lot easier if you obtain a Finnish Identity Card. This will help when setting up a bank account, your phone service, and make any online services much more available to you. 

2. If necessary, seek assistance outside the university

 


Throughout your studies

If you are experiencing an issue that is unresolved by your programme and/or accessibility liaison, utilize the expert panel

Additional contact persons

    • If the guide above did not give you the answers you need you can always email the special needs office: specialneeds@helsinki.fi. They can redirect your question to the right person.
    • If at any point during your studies, you feel like you need mental support, do not hesitate to contact the study psychologists. Just like the special needs office, they can help you find the extra support you need.

Are you still experiencing difficulties? Do you still have difficulties finding the help you need? Or do you simply need some peer support? Contact Orbis, at orbis@helsinki.fi or through our social media pages; Facebook, Instagram.

If you have feedback about this form, including something to change or add based on your personal experience, email orbis@helsinki.fi

 

(Updated in March 2021)

Principles of Safe Space

Orbis Principles of Safe Space

The principles of safe space are a way of creating practices that make everyone feel welcome, safe, and included. The safe space principles listed here have been developed by the Orbis board and align with the Safe Space Principles of Humanisticum. These principles are valid for all of Orbis’s activities, in-person and online. They can be found on Orbis’s website and should be made accessible to anyone attending an activity with Orbis. These principles should be updated yearly at the request of the Representation manager, preferably before the general board meeting in December. 

1. Care and take care

Care about the people around you. Care about how they feel and how your words and actions affect them. As a general rule, treat others as you would like to be treated. In addition to people, care about your surroundings. Take care of yourself, others, and the surrounding environment. 

2. Respect others

Respect the diversity of people. Respect their different views, experiences, and backgrounds. Respect other people’s choices, identities, as well as their personal space and boundaries. Orbis does not allow any form of racist, sexist, narrow-minded, offensive, violent, or threatening behavior, and does not tolerate discrimination or harassment. For your own safety and the safety of others, do not touch anyone without their consent. At the same time, be aware of how your words and non-verbal cues (like staring) could make someone uncomfortable. If someone tells you they are uncomfortable, make a genuine apology, and learn from your mistake. 

3. Think and anticipate

Don’t assume that everyone is comfortable with the same things as you. In short, don’t force anyone to do anything. Always remember that something that is fun or funny for you could be uncomfortable or distressing for another. Anticipate situations where someone might feel uncomfortable and try to prevent and avoid them.

4. Communicate and contribute to a positive atmosphere

Say hello to others. Be kind, polite, and open. Remember that new members or non-members may not know how certain activities operate, so tell them what you are doing so they can be included. Listen, talk, ask. If you do not know or not sure, ask. If anyone asks, try to help. If something bothers you, say so. Communicate about the positives issues, but also problems or ambiguities. Help to promote an open and conversational atmosphere as well as a trustworthy community.

5. Follow the instructions and take action if necessary

Behave matter-of-factly and demand it of others. Do not hesitate to intervene if you see or hear about improper conduct. Do not hesitate to act and do not hesitate to ask for help if you feel you need it in the slightest. If you need support contact the Representation Manager and/or those in charge of the event. In case of an emergency, call the general emergency number 112.

The goal of these principles is to create an atmosphere where people can communicate effectively, participate safely, and be themselves without fear. While the Orbis board is responsible for being role-models in matters of safety, every person should feel empowered to address inappropriate behavior if it arrises. If it feels difficult to intervene, ask a friend or organizer for help. Remember that you can make a positive contribution to the well-being and safety of everyone with your own actions within Orbis. 

(Updated in September 2020)

 

Exceptional situation due to Coronavirus

Because of the University’s state of emergency put into force on the 12th of March 2020, it is with a heavy heart that Orbis has cancelled all its planned events for the spring.

Given that the state of emergency at the university lasts until the end of this semester, we will be less active in spring 2020. Our board meetings and spring general meeting will take place, but through online channels.

We are going to organize alternative events such as online parties and coffee breaks so that international students have a forum to meet each other in this stressful time. Follow our Facebook and Instagram to get the latest updates on these.

Stay safe and keep updated on the official regulations about the situation:
University of Helsinki’s information about the situation
Finnish institute for welfare and health: Latest updates and instructions 

If you need additional support in the situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us at orbis(at)helsinki.fi.

Rules

  1. Name and Domicile

The official name of the organization is Orbis – Humanistisen tiedekunnan ja teologisen tiedekunnan kansainväliset opiskelijat ry. The unofficial English name used for the organization is Orbis – International Students of the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Theology or in the abbreviated form: Orbis. The domicile of the organization is Helsinki.

  1. Language

The official language of the organization is Finnish. Documentation and communication will also be in English and upon request Swedish.

  1. Purpose and Form of Action

The purpose of the organization is to further the integration of international students of the University of Helsinki at the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Theology in general, and in the University and Finland as a whole. This is seen as the combination of academic, political, economic and social integration of the international student population through student advocacy and organization of opportunities that bring internationals and their affairs closer to Finns. In addition, the organization sees that the integration of international students will benefit Finnish students, the university and society as well as the international students themselves. The organization also aims to provide Finnish students with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with international opportunities within their studies.

To reach its purpose, the organization will be active in the following areas:

  1. Introducing the new international students to student life
  2. Providing opportunities for internationals and Finns alike to meet and network
  3. Promoting and protecting international interests especially within the faculties, but also more generally at the university and Finland
  4. Keeping international and Finnish students informed about international issues at the Faculties, university and Finland.

    4. Members

All current students, including Bachelor, Master’s and Doctoral students, as well as exchange students at the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Theology of the University of Helsinki, who accept the purpose and rules of the organization, are eligible to become members of the organization. The membership register is handled by the Board. The Board also has the right to accept students outside the faculties as members, if it so wishes.  All members have the right to vote at elections and access events and information organized and provided by the organization. All members have the right to relinquish their membership at any time by informing the Board or the chair in writing. A member can also relinquish their membership by having it recorded in the minutes of a meeting of the organization.

  1. Fund-raising

To support its activities, the organization has the right to collect a membership fee, entrance fee for events, apply for grants, accept gifts and organize lotteries or sales as well as collect sponsorship.

  1. The Board

The organization has a board of at least three (chairman, secretary and treasurer) and no more than 15 members. Additional roles (such as vice chairman) can be appointed as board members if deemed necessary.

6.1. The Board conducts the activities of the organization. Decisions at board meeting are reached by a majority vote. Each board member has 1 vote. If there is a draw, the Chair’s vote decides.

6.2. The Board will hold meetings when needed and inform the organizations members whenever one is held.

6.3.  Board meetings are open to all members, unless the Board deems matters discussed as sensitive, secret or private. If the Board were to keep a closed meeting, a majority decision by present members to do so is required. These cases may include, but are not limited to

  1. Discussion about possible rewards for active members
  2. Discussion that includes board members’ private matters

6.4. Joining a board meeting through mail or computer-mediated communication is allowed but should only be used when necessary. At least half? of the Board must be physically present at any meeting for it to be legal and competent.

6.5. The minutes of meetings will be provided electronically to all members. Secret or sensitive information will be taken out from published minutes, but information will be made available to relevant parties in other ways.

  1. Persons signing for the organization

The chair signs for the organization alone or the vice chair, secretary, treasurer or a person authorized by the Board two together.

  1. Term

The term of the Board as well as the financial year are based on the calendar year: starting on January 1st and ending on the 31st of December of the same year.

  1. Auditor and vice auditor

The auditor and vice auditor are chosen in the spring general meeting and their term will be the following calendar year.

  1. General meetings

The highest decision-making power is with the general meetings (GM), organized at least twice a year, once in the autumn and once in the spring. GMs are brought to the attention of the organization’s members at least 14 days in advance through the organization’s official Facebook page and/or relevant mailing lists. The agenda of the meeting should be posted a minimum two days before the time of the meeting on relevant mailing lists and/or the official Facebook page. If the Board or general meeting so decides, it is possible to participate in the meeting via mail or computer-mediated communication before or during the meeting. Each student member has one vote, the winning opinion is the one that received at least half of the votes. In case of a draw, a lottery decides.

10.1. The autumn semester GM is held every year between the beginning of November and the end of December. The autumn GM holds an election where the auditor, vice auditor and the Board of the organization for the next calendar year are elected. Only those with student membership status can run. The election for the Chair will be held first, followed by the election of the rest of the Board members (minimum secretary and treasurer). Next, the auditor and vice auditor will be elected. If there are more candidates than positions, or more than one candidate applies for a position, the candidate(s) with the most votes is (are) chosen. In the case of a draw, a lottery will be conducted.

During the autumn general meeting, the plan of action and budget for the following year (prepared by the Board) is decided on. These documents have to be available for the organization’s members to read at least 14 days before the meeting. Other matters of importance can also be discussed.

10.2. After the autumn GM, the new board will organize itself with the initiative of the elected chair.

10.3. The spring semester GM is held every year between the beginning of January and the end of March. At the spring GM:

  1. It is decided whether to collect a membership fee and the size of said fee
  2. The previous Board presents the Annual Report and the financial statement. These documents have to be available for the organization’s members to read at 14 days before the meeting.
  3. The auditors present the results of the audit. This document has to be available for the organization’s members to read at least 14 days before the meeting.
  4. A decision is made about accepting the Annual Report and the financial statement and granting freedom of responsibility to the previous board and other relevant parties.
  5. The newly elected Board presents their Plan of Action for the coming year (based on the plan and budget produced by the previous board). This document has to be available for the organization’s members to read at least 14 days before the meeting.
  6. In addition, other matters of importance can also be discussed.

10.4. Rules of the organization can only be changed with a majority vote of 3/4, the voters being all student members of the organization who are present at the proposed meeting. Potential changes to the rules must be communicated to the organization’s members at least 14 days before a general meeting. The proposed rule changes will be discussed and approved with possible changes at a GM. If a member would like to propose a rule change this should be communicated to the Board 21 days before a GM.

10.5. An extra general meeting (EGM) can be called by the Board if the Board considers it necessary to discuss issues that require the attention of the organization’s members. Information about an EGM must be communicated to the members at least 14 days before the meeting. An EGM will also be held if a general meeting so decides or if it is called for by by at least 10 members of the organization to deal with a matter they have announced. The demand for an EGM must be presented to the Board in writing and upon receiving the demand the Board must arrange the EGM without delay. An EGM also has the power to make binding decisions, provided these rules are followed.

  1. Dismantling the organization

To be able to dismantle the organization, there must be two meetings at least a month apart where the student members of the organization vote on whether to dismantle the organization. Such plans have to be communicated to the members at least 14 days before the meetings. Any resources, that remain after such a dismantling, must be used in a manner following the purpose of the organization as decided by the General Meeting that decides to dismantle the organization. If the organization is ordered to be dismantled the resources will be used for the same purpose.