Sunflower Lanyard Program for Hidden Disability Awareness
Published: 2019-11-09 - Updated: 2022-09-25
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (www.disabled-world.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
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Synopsis: Information regarding the invisible disability sunflower lanyard program where a lanyard is worn around the neck to let others know you have hidden disabilities. Organizers of the sunflower lanyard program state that there is no qualifying disability needed to qualify a person for the program. Not only are the sunflower lanyards available at many airports across the UK they have also been introduced in LNER trains, and several supermarkets including M&S, Sainsburys and Tesco.
- Sunflower Lanyard
The Sunflower Lanyard Program for Hidden Disability Awareness, supported by charities, has been introduced where a sunflower lanyard, worn around the neck, lets others know that you have hidden disabilities. The Sunflower Lanyard idea is a different approach from the more commonly known awareness ribbons and bracelets as individuals with hidden disabilities can wear the lanyards as a way of discreetly letting others know they might need extra assistance in certain situations.
The Sunflower Lanyard Program for Hidden Disability Awareness is a reasonably recent program supported by several U.K. charities, including; The National Autistic Society, RNIB, Alzheimer's Society, Action on Hearing Loss, and other organizations, shopping complexes, and public transportation facilities have been introduced so wearers of sunflower lanyards can "discreetly" let others know they have hidden, or invisible, disabilities.
This article is from our digest of publications relating to Disability Awareness that also includes:
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower aims to help others identify when support may be needed for those with disabilities such as autism, dementia, anxiety, or other conditions that may not be immediately obvious to others.
Image of sunflowers, two butterflies, and a ladybug.
What is Invisible or Hidden Disability?
Invisible Disability, or hidden disability, is an broad umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities and/or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature. Invisible disabilities, or hidden disabilities, are defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent to others.
- About 10% of Americans have a medical condition that could be considered an invisible disability.
- 96% of the American people with chronic medical conditions live with the invisible condition.
These people may seldom use a cane - or any assistive device - and it is often impossible to tell they have a medical condition. Although the disability creates a challenge for the person who has it, the reality of the disability can be difficult for others to recognize or acknowledge. Others may not understand the cause of the problem if they cannot see evidence of it.
Also See: Hidden Disability Symbol: Canada Movement.
Invisible Disability Examples Can Include
- People with visual or auditory disabilities who do not wear glasses or visible hearing aids may not appear to be disabled. Some people who have vision loss may wear contacts.
- A sitting disability is another category of invisible impairments. Sitting problems are often caused by chronic back pain. Those with joint problems or chronic pain may not use mobility aids on some days.
Disabled World provides a more comprehensive list of invisible disabilities.
Gatwick airport is said to have first introduced the sunflower lanyard program in 2016. Since then, most U.K. airports have welcomed and adopted the idea. Manchester airport has also recently opened a new "Sunflower Room", which allows passengers to experience a quieter environment away from the waiting departure lounges if needed.
Today, the fast-growing sunflower lanyard initiative is helping adults and children with hidden disabilities experience more support in airports and supermarkets by acting as a discreet sign for staff that the wearer may require additional support or help from the lanyard. The lanyards, which are bright green and decorated with a sunflower design, are free of charge and help identify people with additional needs and their families to navigate their way through busy airports without having to ask for assistance specifically. The scheme is a simple way to enable staff at airports to identify those who may need extra support.
The sunflower lanyard for hidden disabilities awareness (Optional about me card attached).
The Sunflower lanyard program is entirely voluntary for people with hidden disabilities and their families. Organizers of the sunflower lanyard program state that there is no qualifying disability needed to qualify a person for the program. Instead, the sunflower lanyard program is for everyone who considers themselves to have a hidden disability. Once you obtain one, you do not have to provide any proof of a disability; it is yours to keep forever and use for future travels, shopping trips, and outings where ever the program is recognized. However, while an increasing number of venues are starting to offer these free lanyards, not everyone is familiar yet with the idea and meaning behind the cause.
Places That Currently Recognize the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard
Not only are the sunflower lanyards available at many airports across the UK they have also been introduced in LNER trains, and several supermarkets, including M&S, Sainsbury's, and Tesco.
The official advice from airports is that the sunflower lanyard does not give you access to security or immigration fast track. Airports advise that when entering the security area, you will be pointed to the shortest available lane based on live operations, and where possible, you might be shown to the front of the queue.
In 2016, Gatwick launched the first-of-its-kind lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities who may require additional support when traveling through the airport. By wearing the lanyard at Gatwick, or other major UK airports, you could receive additional support from staff, including
- Receiving clear instructions
- Ability to remain with family members at all times
- Staff assisting with reading departure boards or signs
- Getting more time to prepare at check-in and security
- Receive additional time to prepare for security checks and boarding
- Explaining in detail what to expect when traveling through the airport
- A more comprehensive briefing on what to expect as you travel through the airport
The lanyard scheme is gradually being adopted by railways. It is now being used by LNER, which operates the London North Eastern routes, and c2c, which serves 26 stations in East London and South Essex.
The sunflower lanyard program is being trialed by two major U.K. supermarkets. Sainsbury's runs an extended trial at 40 branches following a successful test at its Barnstaple store. Tesco is running a trial in 15 of its Hertfordshire stores.
- In August 2019, Eureka!, a children's museum in Yorkshire, joined the sunflower lanyard scheme. If you're planning a visit to Eureka!, they have lots of information on accessible visits on their website.
- The Royal International Air Tattoo, which stages air shows in Gloucestershire for aircraft enthusiasts, is another attraction currently trialing the sunflower lanyard scheme.
How and Where to Obtain a Sunflower Lanyard (UK)
- Airports: If you are flying from a major U.K. airport, you can ask for a lanyard from an airport assistance desk or order it in advance from participating airports by contacting the airport before you travel.
- Railways: For LNER, ask at any rail station or by contacting customer services. For c2c, ask at train station booking offices or by contacting customers services.
- Supermarkets: If you shop in any of the Sainsbury's or Tesco stores running the trial, you can request the lanyard at the customer service desk - or the checkout counters at smaller shops. Visitor attractions: Ask at the checkout tills or information center.
What Countries Use Sunflower Lanyard Awareness
Several other countries are beginning to participate or are petitioning the powers that be to adopt the Sunflower Lanyard for invisible disabilities Program. To date, these countries include:
- Australia: Several major airports in Australia recognize and support the lanyard scheme.
- New Zealand: Georgia Hood has launched a petition addressed to the New Zealand Airports Association to introduce the sunflower lanyard, for people with hidden disabilities, at all NZ airports.
- Netherlands: Schiphol airport Amsterdam recognizes the sunflower lanyard program; however, it is known as the "Green Assistance Keycord."
- United Kingdom (UK): The birthplace of the sunflower lanyard for hidden disabilities awareness scheme.
- Ireland: Cork Airport is the first airport in the Republic of Ireland to roll out the sunflower lanyard initiative supporting passengers with hidden disabilities.
- United States:
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, United States, now participates in the disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Program.
- John F. Kennedy International Airport: The operator of Terminal 4 at JFK IAT has partnered with the U.K.-based Sunflower Lanyard Scheme to offer customers traveling through the terminal a discreet way to alert employees that they may require additional assistance, support, or time.
- Miami International Airport: MIA has joined the currently ten other U.S. and 34 worldwide airports that provide sunflower lanyards free of charge to travelers with hidden disabilities. The lanyards are a sensitive indicator to airport employees that those passengers may need extra time during the travel process. MIA employees have received customer service training about the lanyards and best practices for serving travelers with hidden disabilities.
- Mineta San Jose California International Airport. With the help of the California State Council on Developmental disabilities, Mineta San Jose Airport has now made the hidden disabilities lanyard program available.
- Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: MSP has partnered with the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower organization to bring its Sunflower Lanyard program to MSP; further information can be found at mspairport.com/airport/accessibility/hidden-disabilities-sunflower-program
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport: SEA appears to be the first in the U.S. to offer such a solution: a green lanyard printed with yellow sunflowers that symbolizes a "hidden disability" such as dementia, hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder or autism.
The U.S. city of Mesa, Arizona, is the first U.S. city to adopt the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower complimentary lanyards and bracelets. In addition to the Mesa Visitors Center, guests can pick up their complimentary Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyards and bracelets at these participating Mesa locations:
- COPA Health
- Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport
- Arizona Museum of Natural History
- DoubleTree by Hilton Phoenix Mesa
- Delta Hotels by Marriott Phoenix-Mesa
- Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West
- Holiday Inn & Suites Phoenix-Mesa/Chandler
Have you seen the Sunflower Lanyard program in use somewhere we haven't mentioned? If so please contact us so we can add the venue to this page for the benefit of others.
Not all disabilities are visible, and a subtle signal such as the sunflower lanyard can make a big difference in providing confidence and reassurance to the wearers. Over 500,000 lanyards have been issued in the U.K. As interest grows, so does the number of organizations, groups, and venues involved. Not all people with hidden disabilities require assistance. However, we believe that the sunflower lanyard program is an optional opportunity to provide people with a 'discreet sign' which demonstrates to staff, and others, that they may need additional support or assistance.
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