This has been a tough year for many of us and with the NHS under a lot of pressure to provide care for both the general population and for patients suffering with Covid-19, and with face masks now mandatory, it is understandable that for many of us, our health is our number one priority. But what if, for many of us, health has always been at the forefront of our minds. Every time we go shopping for example, or need to use public facilities. To help those members of the public, Hidden disabilities launched the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme. An initiative backed by the UK government, it would discreetly but visibly indicate that the wearer had a hidden disability and as such may require some extra help and support whilst out in public.
What does it look like?
The lanyard itself is green, with a printed colourful sunflower design. Hidden disabilities say they chose a sunflower “as it suggests happiness, positivity, strength as well as growth and confidence. It is a universally known flower as well as being gender-neutral. It intends to allow everyone with hidden disabilities to choose to be visible when they need to be.”
Who can get one?
Anyone with a hidden disability can get wear one. A lot of disabilities do not have obvious physical signs. These include but are not limited to; hearing impairments, visual impairments, autism, mental health issues, asthma and other lung conditions, diabetes and chronic illnesses that affect day-to-day living. You do not have to prove your disability to get one.
Where can I get one?
The Sunflower lanyard can be found, free of charge, at the customer service desk of the big four supermarkets, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Tesco. They can also be found at some larger retailers such as Marks and Spencer. If you are due to fly, they are available from most airport assistance desks, or you can contact the airport before you fly to confirm they are indeed part of the scheme. If you prefer to support the Hidden Disabilities charity directly, are self-isolating, or would just rather have one delivered to your home, you can find lanyards for purchase from the Hidden Disabilities website, for the price of £0.55. Please be aware that the sunflower lanyards are only for sale by the charities that are members of the hidden disabilities scheme and the hidden disabilities website. They should be available for free at other stores. Hidden disabilities sunflower products are not sold on eBay or amazon.
Where are they acknowledged?
UK airports were the first to introduce the scheme and after it proved hugely successful, other transport providers followed suit. It was so popular that Manchester airport now has its own Sunflower room. This is for travellers who may require special assistance, who require quiet and space away from the hubbub of the main airport. Most retailers are now either part of the scheme or acknowledge the Sunflower lanyard. If you are in doubt, please ring the store you are visiting ahead of time to double check their policy.
The Sunflower lanyard scheme has also proved particularly useful in these troubling times. With masks proving a contentious point for many despite the science, the lanyard is an easily accessible way to show that you are exempt from wearing a mask for medical reasons. If you are normally a wearer of the sunflower lanyard and are also subject to medical exemptions from wearing a mask, you may require an exemption card or badge. These are not required by law, you do not have to show any written evidence of this, but members of the public are finding them useful. Lanyards are designed to hold an attachment or clip. In this case, there is a clip at the end to attach to ID cards or badges. The UK government have downloadable cards on their website that you can print out at home. Alternatively, you can make your own mask exempt/require more space cards. If you do not require a badge or ID but want to wear the Sunflower lanyard, then traditionally they were used to hold rigging and cutlasses, so feel free to attach what you like! If a wearer has sensory needs, then you can wear it without any attachment. If you are worried about safety, especially if the wearer is a child, most lanyards today are fitted with a breakaway system, so when pressure is applied the lanyard releases from the accessory, meaning there is less risk of choking if the lanyard is being worn around the neck.
Despite this being a voluntary scheme, the use of the Sunflower lanyard has proved exceedingly popular. Not only has it created awareness for people with hidden disabilities and the challenges they face every day, but it has made daily life for people with hidden disabilities far less demanding. The extra help and support needed without having to ask directly for it, can make a real difference to people’s lives.