/ Health

Should the Sunflower Lanyard scheme be adopted everywhere?

The Sunflower Lanyard scheme helps make others aware of hidden disabilities. Do you think it should become mainstream? I really do, and this is why.

On a recent holiday, a flight attendant approached my husband. He shook him by the hand, told him it was a pleasure to have us on board and that if there was anything we needed, all we had to do was let him know.

An hour into the flight and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked the flight attendant if he thought my husband was famous.

He laughed kindly and said it was because of our son’s Sunflower Lanyard – he told me he was impressed at how relaxed my son was on board.

Living with autism

A few months ago my son was diagnosed with autism, compounded by language processing issues.

On our way through the airport security the scanner choose him randomly for a scan in the ‘big, scary wooshy machine’.

He was terrified. He thought he had done something wrong and was reduced to a weeping heap at the idea of the scanner.

I told the staff he has autism and they were so understanding. They patted him down instead and gave us a Sunflower Lanyard.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

The scheme was first launched at Gatwick Airport in 2016 to help staff identify whether someone might require reasonable adjustments.

This can involve many things from speaking more slowly to letting them stay with family members at all times and giving them more time to board.

For us it was a revelation. The staff at the airport and on-board were brilliant with him and made us feel welcome and at ease with relatively little adjustment.

I am happy to see that it’s since been rolled out to many other airports, train services and supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

My son lives with a constant level of anxiety over unfamiliar sights and sounds, he struggles to understand new processes and often can not express why something is scaring him.

Simple things like taking a second to explain what is about to happen makes a world of difference to him and makes things go so much more smoothly for everyone. 

With so many disabilities hidden, my hope is that schemes such as this one continue to become mainstream.

Life would be much easier for people if they had an easy visual way to show they might need assistance or even just a little understanding.

Would you like to see the scheme rolled out even further? Would it help in your workplace?


Abby, thanks for sharing this. It sounds like a really useful scheme to me. I’m sure that those who like to do their best for all of their customers will find it useful.

The principle is good and if the scheme is successful, perhaps it should become standard, like the Radar key for accessible toilets or at least widespread like the Blue Badge scheme for disabled drivers. I was not aware of the existence of the Sunflower scheme, though it is active in the local Tesco store.

From the website:
“There is no need to provide evidence to wear a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower. It is meant to highlight that you have a hidden disability and does not entitle you to anything. It’s simply there to show that you may need assistance or just a little more time and not is not a fast pass.

In some cases, an official diagnosis can take a long time. We feel it would be unfair and unkind for someone who was currently undiagnosed but struggling, and needing help to be excluded. So proof or evidence is not required to obtain a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower product.”

I do hope that few people exploit the system, for example to avoid queuing.

Thanks Abby. I did encounter a couple of cases of challenging behaviour when I was teaching, and thanks to our disabilities officer I learned how best to handle the situation and avoid future problems.

This is an excellent scheme. Silently and without any need to register special attention, those in charge of places where stress can be found, can adjust, explain and ease any manoeuvre simply because help is obviously required and it has been noted. It could be especially useful where speech is a problem or where epilepsy or other ailments can be recognised as such and not as a drug or alcohol related incident. These lanyards are attractive and good to wear. Publicise the scheme and make it national like the blue badge for drivers.

An ex colleague of mine tested this out earlier this year at an airport – and was recognised correctly on several occasions – lovely idea.

Peter says:
14 December 2019

The Sunflower Lanyard has to be a good scheme providing it is not abused in the same way as the Blue Card for disabled drivers which seem to be handed out with very little checking.

The Blue Badges for exemption from parking restrictions and for occupation of priority parking spaces are issued largely on the recommendation of the applicant’s doctor who has to attest that their patient has severe mobility difficulties. They are not exclusively for disabled drivers and they only relate to difficulties with walking unaided and not to other disabilities.

There could be a number of over-sympathetic recommendations by doctors, it is well known that Blue Badges are used by other family members without the authorised person being present, and there are many cases of stolen Blue Badges, especially in urban areas. According to a recent news item, local authority prosecutions for misuse of Blue Badges have reached record levels. I doubt if similar types of abuse would affect the Sunflower Lanyard because the lanyards don’t give any specific entitlements or preference to anything, other than recognising that you have a hidden disability and that you may need some assistance, help or a little more time.

The Sunflower Lanyards are available free of charge from members of the scheme [e.g. airports, supermarkets] or can be bought from authorised registered charities or on-line – See:

Unfortunately there are counterfeit lanyards on sale on the internet. The Hidden Disabilities charity says “We do not sell any Hidden Disabilities Sunflower product on Ebay or Amazon. Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Products being sold on these platforms are being resold at inflated prices or are counterfeit or copycat version which can be misleading, cause confusion by not being recognised quickly by members of the scheme and may mean wearers are not helped as intended.

I don’t think it’s a charity, John. My take is that it’s a commercial enterprise keen to avoid loss of profit.

Wherever there is a worthwhile cause there is often someone trying to make money out of it. 🙁

No, it is not a charity, Wavechange, but it authorises charities to sell its products and also sells them direct to the public. It is keen to protect its commercial position and is anxious to ensure there is no reselling of lanyards obtained free of charge from members of the Sunflower scheme.

I formed the impression that the Hidden Disabilities scheme was acting honourably in running the scheme and enabling people to get a lanyard before they travel.

Anon by necessity says:
15 December 2019

As a youth magistrate we have seen occasions where young people with problems would have benefitted strongly if the police had been able to identify that they had personal issues which would explain their unusual behaviour

Our History

To date, we have provided over one million lanyards both to businesses as well as directly to the general public. Although we have so far mostly focused on the UK, we are now working with companies and organisations asking to join as awareness of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower grows. With this increased awareness, Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard wearers benefit more widely from help being offered to make their daily living a little easier.

In May 2016, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme® launches at London Gatwick Airport. The lanyard is developed to identify passengers with a hidden disability who may need additional help while travelling.
Between 2016 and 2018, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard rolls out across all major UK airports.

UK rail providers become members of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme®.

Major UK supermarkets trials.

The Co-operative Channel Islands is the first UK supermarket chain to pilot the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard.

NHS trusts and independent GP surgeries trial and launch the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme®.

Working with international airports including sharing training materials and advising on best practice.


Tabbers trademarks the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme®.

Nationwide launches at cinemas and visitor attractions.

M&S is the first UK supermarket to roll out the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard in all their UK stores.

Banks, hospitals, insurance companies, shopping centres, sports venues and arenas join.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower online store opens up to the general public.

Facebook Page 25,000 likes within a few days. Individuals and businesses from all over the world become aware and request the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard.

One million Sunflower Lanyards are distributed.

Sainsbury’s and Argos launch throughout their UK stores.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard is globally recognised.

What next?

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Charitable Trust is being established. The objective of this trust is to offer funding and charitable donations to the charities and bodies that use and promote Hidden Disabilities products. 10% of the revenue of every item sold is to be donated directly to the trust and relevant charities will be invited to apply for funding.
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme® is part of Tabbers Limited, a private company based in the UK.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Products are strictly not for resale by individuals, businesses or organisations – they are intended to be donated to your customers free of charge. If you are a registered charity, please contact us to discuss reselling the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower products so that any revenue you make from doing this benefits your charity.

I know this is a bit late, but I’ve only just discovered this thread. Unfortunately the lanyard scheme won’t help anyone like me, You mention air travel and rail services, but wearing a lanyard won’t get airliners, or trains, fitted with quiet zones for folk like me who suffer so appallingly with far more severe misophonia and/or severe HEAT intolerance and the appalling severe and excruciating profuse sweating it causes. And the lanyard won’t help with any public buildings or transport with stupid clear glass or plastic roofing in the summer sun which causes an absolutely BRUTAL greenhouse effect inside when there’s little or no solar control, which all too often there isn’t.

G Marsh says:
16 December 2019

My granddaughter is Autistic but doesn’t like people to know, she refuses to wear the lanyard, but I always have it attached to my bag when she is with me.
I do think it would help if it was rolled out nationally

Whilst in theory I like it, in practice wearing anything like that round here will just make you a target for all the criminals we don’t punish properly. So on that basis if I or anyone I know were to be given one I would strongly suggest it gets put in a draw and forgotten.

You could the same about wheelchairs and mobility scooters advertising vulnerability, but because the disability is visible, most people are happy to help. In some cases those wearing the sunflower lanyard will be accompanied by another person. Clearly there are some areas where people are at more risk but that’s the problem that needs to be dealt with.

You clearly don’t live round here.

If wearing a lanyard is considered a risk, perhaps the answer is to display it only when you need assistance.

I take your point. I’m very fortunate and have never lived in a risky area.

The lanyard is an excellent tool for people with hearing problems or deafness which is truly a “ hidden “ problem. People will defer to, or help, others with obvious physical problems but may become irritated by deaf people not understanding them when they have not picked up on what they have said. Our Lip-Reading Class can testify to this. The availability of the lanyard has improved I would recommend it for consideration by people with impaired hearing.

Being a Traumatic Brain Injury survivor I have lived for decades with a variety of Invisible Disabilities. This must be so for thousands of people with a Neurological Condition. I have become proud to wear my Lanyard along with my bus pass and Brain Injury Identity Card. Every day I ask a shop worker, bus driver, taxi driver, member of public, or Healthcare worker if they know what it stands for. 95% of the time they don’t. I then quickly explain it and give examples where it would be beneficial. Most respond with, what a good idea, or, where can I get one? I believe that it would benefit so many people. During the Lockdown I presented my Sunflower Badge to a Supermarket Security Guard to gain access to the store during quiet times to make my shopping easier, quicker and safer. Absolutely make it a recognised symbol Everywhere. I have had nothing but good experiences in situations where the education regarding the Symbol is part of Induction to work or volunteering, as well as from those that I have made aware.

Hi Debbie, thank you so much for sharing your story here. It’s great to hear how beneficial the Sunflower badge has been for you, especially throughout the pandemic.

I don’t think the lanyard, or anything similar would do anything remotely helpful for anyone like me. It won’t provide essential QUIET segregation on trains for example, and it won’t get stupid insane full length skylights fixed on buses and it won’t get the stupid insane radio or some other dreadful excuse for music turned off in the local shops either which is absolutely no good for me. In my experience there’s all manner of help and respect, and regulations, for those with white sticks and wheelchairs but when it comes to severe misophonia and severe HEAT intolerance there’s nothing but TOTAL contempt and gross condescension from shop keepers AND those in power and control which infuriates me, the so-called “equality” act is worthless as it’s never anywhere NEAR properly enforced so why do we have it? It’s a good question isn’t it?

I think this scheme is an excellent start. People with invisible disabilities have a terrible time being recognised. I am a wheelchair user, and I have enough trouble getting others to consider my needs sympathetically, so what it must be like for someone not obviously disabled, I dread to think. At least when they are wearing the lanyard, folk will realise that all is not as it seems.