You may have seen people wearing sunflower lanyards on the bus, in the supermarket or at the airport and not thought much of it. But it’s part of a scheme that has been rolled out across the UK to support passengers who have a hidden disability.
By wearing the sunflower lanyard, it allows staff to assist the passengers discreetly if they need their help without having to verbally disclose it to them. Some examples of hidden disabilities are autism, ADHD, dementia, mental health issues and visual impairments.
The lanyards can be requested and are given out free at participating organisations, such as London Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport and Manchester Airport. They can often be collected from customer services desks, but it is advisable to get in touch with them before your trip.
As well as airports, supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Marks & Spencer have also got involved in the scheme this year and are trialling it at their stores in the UK.
For those with hidden disabilities, it’s not always easy to ask for help without the fear of being judged and sunflower lanyards helps reduce that. Manchester Airport has also recently opened a Sunflower room where passengers can get away from the busy departure lounges if needed.
According to Airport Focus International, passengers with hidden disabilities requesting assistance at Gatwick Airport has risen by 47 per cent year on year since it launched.
If you need a sunflower lanyard, here's how to get one:
If you shop at Sainsbury's or Marks and Spencers, you can get a free sunflower lanyard by going to the customer services desk and requesting one. Both of these stores have just rolled out the scheme nationwide so will be avaliable in all stores.
If you are due to travel from a major UK airport, you can request a lanyard from the airport assistance desk. However, it is advisable to order one in advance at your chosen airport so you can pick it up easily on the day or get it posted to your home address.
Sunflower lanyards are now recognised on the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and are avaliable to collect from any LNER station, or you can get in contact with their customer services team through phone, email or social media.
Eureka, a children's museum, is the first visitor attraction to roll out the scheme and can offer disabled visitors free support such as fast-track admission and access to a Chill Out room.
You can also buy a sunflower lanyard from the Hidden Disabilities Store website.