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Sunflower Lanyard Program for Hidden Disability Awareness

Author: Disabled World : Contact:

Published: 2019-11-09 : (Rev. 2020-05-06)

Synopsis and Key Points:

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.

Main Digest

A scheme, which is supported by charities, has been introduced where a sunflower lanyard, worn around the neck, lets others know that you have hidden disabilities.

A different approach from the commonly seen awareness ribbons and bracelets, the Sunflower lanyards can be worn by individuals with hidden disabilities as a way of discreetly letting others know they might need extra assistance in certain situations.

A recent program supported by a number of 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, has been introduced where wearers of sunflower lanyards can "discreetly" let others know they have hidden, or invisible, disabilities. The Sunflower Lanyards are free and can be re-used at any other location operating the scheme.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower purpose 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 other people.

Image of sunflowers, two butterflies, and a ladybug.
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 disability, or hidden disabilities, are defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent to others.

These people may seldom use a cane - or any assistive device at all - 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 in a visible way.

Invisible Disability Examples Can Include

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 additional support or help may be required by the wearer of the lanyard. The lanyards, which are bright green in color and decorated with a sunflower design, are free of charge, and help identify people with additional needs and their families navigate their way through busy airports without having to specifically ask for assistance. 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 for hidden disabilities awareness (Optional about me card attached).

Entirely Voluntary

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 and anyone that 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, please note tha 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, Sainsburys 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 travelling through the airport. By wearing the lanyard at Gatwick, or other major UK airports, you could receive additional support from staff including:


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 currently being trialled by two major U.K. supermarkets. Sainsbury's is running 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.

Tourist Attractions

How and Where to Obtain a Sunflower Lanyard (Uk)


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.


For LNER, ask at any rail station or by contacting customers services. For c2c, ask at train station booking offices or by contacting customers services.


If you happen to 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:

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 it's clear that a subtle signal such as the sunflower lanyard can make a big difference in providing confidence and reassurance to the wearers.

To date, over 500,000 lanyards have been issued in the U.K. and as interest continues to grow, 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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