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Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyards: what are they for and who can wear them?

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower – a discreet symbol indicating that the wearer has a disability that may not be visible – is now recognised in several countries around the globe after being launched in the UK in 2016. The aim of the Sunflower is to communicate to staff and members of the public that the person wearing the Sunflower has a disability and that they may require extra time, assistance, support, or access to facilities for disabled people.

Who can wear the sunflower lanyard?

“There is no qualifying list of hidden disabilities. If you have a hidden disability and feel that you would benefit from wearing a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower product, please do.” — Hidden Disabilities website

Many people have disabilities that aren’t always immediately obvious to your average person, such as people with mental or physical illnesses, people with learning disabilities, and people who need to use mobility aids but not all the time. For people with hidden disabilities like these, accessing the support or public facilities that they need can be a source of anxiety. There’s always the worry that they’ll be questioned by members of the public or even members of staff about whether they’re disabled or not. There’s even the fear that they’ll be outright denied access to these facilities because they don’t ‘look’ disabled.

The Sunflower has provided a straightforward way of indicating to others that the person wearing one has a hidden disability without them having to say anything at all, which avoids disabled folks being forced to justify themselves to strangers or feel like they have to prove to anyone that they’re ‘disabled enough’.

Public awareness of the Sunflower grew a lot during the COVID pandemic, which was great news for many people with hidden disabilities. For those who are exempt from wearing a mask, the sunflower lanyard has been a great way to indicate to shop staff (and other members of the public) that you’re exempt without having to explain yourself.

As increasing numbers of disabled people wear the Sunflower and the public become more aware of what it means, the hope is that even more disabled people will feel comfortable wearing it too. This has two great effects; one is that disabled people can experience a sense of solidarity amongst other Sunflower-wearing disabled folks, and the other is that non-disabled people will hopefully begin to see just how many people around them have a hidden disability. The general public tend to think that there are only a small minority of disabled people when, in reality (as the large number of Sunflower lanyard-wearers is showing), there are many millions. The disabled people’s charity Scope estimates that there are 14.1 million disabled people living in the UK.

Of course, people shouldn’t have to wear a lanyard for others to respect that they may have a hidden disability, and no one should be questioning whether someone using a disabled facility (such as a disabled loo) really needs to use it, even if they’re not wearing a Sunflower. However, the Sunflower has brought much needed awareness to hidden disabilities that we didn’t always see before, and that’s a great thing. Since this scheme was launched, public awareness of invisible disabilities has certainly been improving. Signs that read ‘Not all disabilities are visible’ are becoming increasingly popular in public toilets, such as the one’s you would find in supermarkets.

This will hopefully help people with disabilities of all varieties get the support they need in public spaces. It may also help to challenge people who previously would have felt like it was appropriate to question a stranger who didn’t ‘look’ disabled to them. As more people become aware of just just how many disabled people there are around them in their day-to-day lives, we can hope to see better support for disabled people and a better understanding of the importance of accessibility in public spaces. As we know, access for disabled people in public spaces such as supermarkets drastically needs improving.

The most wonderful thing about the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is how easily available it is to people with disabilities. No complicated forms to fill out or requirement for you to prove your disability – anyone with a disability can go to the Hidden Disabilities website and order themselves something from the store, including cards, keyrings, and (most widely seen) lanyards.

Find out more about the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

Order a Sunflower Lanyard

At Cartwright, we believe there should be no barriers to accessibility. We believe all tools to help disabled people, from wheelchair accessible vehicles to the simple Sunflower lanyard, should be easy to access and affordable to anyone that needs them – you can learn more about our mobility vehicles or contact us today if you have any questions, we’d love to help you.

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