As we know, not all disabilities are visible. Globally, 1 in 7 of us live with a disability, and of those, 80% are invisible. That is 1 billion people who are living with a non-visible disability.
First used at Gatwick Airport in 2016, the Sunflower Lanyard is now a nationally recognized symbol. Beyond that, it’s even being recognized in other countries around the world! But what exactly is the Sunflower Lanyard, and who is it for?
The Sunflower Lanyard is a green lanyard that’s decorated, as you might have guessed, with yellow sunflowers. This lanyard is a sign that the wearer might need some extra support and to raise awareness of any hidden disabilities. It’s up to the discretion of the wearer when they want to be recognized or not to indicate to people that they may need additional support, or a little more time.
Which hidden disabilities are eligible for a sunflower lanyard?
The types of hidden disabilities that are eligible for a sunflower lanyard include:
- Autism and Asperger’s
- learning disabilities
- mobility problems (e.g. arthritis, MS, ME, chronic illness)
- visual or hearing impairments
- mental health issues.
How does the sunflower lanyard help people with hidden disabilities?
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard scheme is designed to give its participants extra assistance while out in public by having a discreet lanyard to take a lot of pressure off people, as they don’t have to worry so much about what people think of their behaviour. Many supermarkets have now started using the lanyards. In addition, they are beginning to be recognized at international airports, cinemas, shopping centres and several NHS Trusts.
The extra support that can be provided with a lanyard includes:
- making others aware that a person may be struggling or have behavioural issues.
- packing your bags
- more time at the checkout
- speaking face-to-face to allow lip-reading
- using clear and easy-to-understand language
- help with hard-to-reach products
How did the sunflower lanyard get its name?
It takes its name from its appearance – a simple green ribbon, decorated with sunflowers. The design was chosen because it was ‘subtle but visible,’ according to the Hidden Disabilities website.
“We created a simple sunflower design on a green background for a lanyard – a subtle but visible sign to enable airport staff to identify that the wearer (or someone with them) may require some extra help, time, or assistance when moving through the airport. The success of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower and the positive response it has received has increased awareness of the challenges adults and children with hidden disabilities can face. Hidden Disabilities Sunflower wearers now benefit more widely from help being offered to make their daily living a little easier.”
Opinions on the sunflower lanyard
Below are some opinions from people with a hidden disability about the initiative.
“I was really pleased to hear that University Hospital Lewisham, which is my local hospital, has launched a Sunflower Lanyard Scheme for people with hidden disabilities like me. You might not realize it when you first see me, but my learning disability means I sometimes need extra support when I’m in hospital.”
“I love that it is not labelling anyone but it just makes people more aware that it may be why that person is struggling.” They went on to explain how it helps their son when he might behave in a certain way while shopping. For example, screaming or kicking. “He isn’t a naughty child he is just processing and seeing/hearing things we have no idea are even happening.”
“I wear one because I’m autistic and type 1 diabetic. The reason it’s so helpful for my autism is because I’ve learned to ‘mask’ my autistic traits so well over the years that I often pass as neurotypical. This can put me in humiliating, or even dangerous, situations when I start acting in unexpected ways. For example, if I’m overwhelmed and I start stuttering or losing speech altogether, or if I start pacing or fidgeting, or if I have to leave a situation at an unexpected time. The lanyard takes a lot of pressure off, as I don’t have to worry so much about what people think of me and whether they assumed I was being rude, so I can just focus on getting myself to a place of comfort or safety.”
Where to get a hidden disabilities lanyard?
There are two ways to obtain a hidden disability lanyard, either in store or online.
You can simply pick up one from any participating store, airport, venue or station at a customer service desk for free. You don’t need to provide proof of your disability.
Lots of supermarkets now stock the distinctive lanyard, including Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Argos, Tesco, and Morrisons. You should simply be able to collect one from their customer service desk, however it’s worth calling in advance to see if they do indeed stock them. You can check out which places are participating in the sunflower scheme here.
Alternatively, you can also purchase one online from the hidden disabilities store.