How a Sunflower Lanyard could help with your Weekly Shop

With the emergency of COVID-19 this year, we have all found ourselves in this new world of lockdowns, wearing face masks and the strange prospect of queueing to do our food shops. For those of us who were isolating and have only just emerged after several months enveloped in the safety of our own home, these new changes can be even more bewildering and leave us feeling more vulnerable. Never fear though, as there is a bright yellow flower here who can help you feel more reassured and receive help should you need it to do your weekly shop.

If you’ve been round your local supermarket, you may have started to notice some people wearing a bright green lanyard printed with cheerful looking sunflowers, but what are they for? What do they mean?

The sunflower lanyard is a scheme created by Hidden Disabilities Sunflower that has been designed to indicate discreetly that the wearer of the lanyard has an invisible condition or disability and may need extra help or time with their journey or shopping.

The scheme originated in 2016 when Gatwick Airport wanted a way to recognise passengers who may not have an obvious disability in order to offer them assistance through the airport. The Sunflower Lanyard Scheme was created and was such a massive success that the scheme has now been adopted by all major airports, many large retailers and supermarkets, railway stations, leisure facilities and within the NHS and is fast becoming recognised internationally. To date, more than two million lanyards have been distributed out to businesses and the public.

More recently, the hidden disabilities scheme has reacted to current events and have added face masks, exemption cards and hand sanitisers to their line up as well as their well-recognised lanyards

Annette from the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower team has been involved in the scheme’s launch and heady rise

Why is the sunflower scheme so important?

Living with a hidden disability can be challenging. There can be good days where normal day-to-day life is not affected but it can also be painful, exhausting and isolating and individuals often experience negative attitudes. And this can lead to anxiety, not wanting to ask for help or being worried about what people might think. Without the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, it can be difficult to recognise that the individual has a hidden disability and as a consequence, sympathy and understanding can often be in short supply. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower makes them visible so that support, assistance or just a little more time can be given.

Have you received a positive response from the scheme?

Yes, wearers have mentioned that they have more confidence to go out knowing that they are going to be recognised by businesses and organisations who have joined the scheme – just being asked if they need any help makes a huge difference!

What is the significance of the sunflower?

We wanted a design that was easy to recognise from a distance but was discreet as well. We chose the sunflower as it is bright and signifies positivity, strength and happiness.

We couldn’t agree with that more – we all need these in our lives!


What is next for the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme?

We are continuously encouraging businesses to join the scheme so that the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is more widely recognised to support wearers as widely as possible. We are working with businesses abroad so that it is globally recognised and people with hidden disabilities benefit from wearing it, irrespective of where they are!

How does the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme work?

If you have an invisible condition or disability, and you find travelling or getting around to do your shop stressful, then you can ask for a sunflower lanyard from customer services desks in supermarkets or from special assistance desks at airports and railways stations.

By wearing a lanyard, staff will be able to recognise that you may need extra assistance and will offer any additional help to make your journey or shopping trip less stressful.

Box of Sunflower Lanyards

What wearers say about the lanyard

We asked our community about their experiences with the sunflower lanyard and this is what was said…

“My local Tesco has been amazing at accommodating me when I wear mine. I get very anxious especially in supermarkets and a few times staff members have opened a new till for me so that I haven’t had to queue and could take my time!” Anna

“We have been using them for a couple of years now, my son has Downs Syndrome, they have been a godsend at the airports. Jo”

“I used mine at Stansted and Glasgow airports. I found all the staff very helpful and were great at keeping me away from crowds as I explained how I panic. Also I cannot do stairs so I had a lift on and off the plane. Every member of staff I spoke to or interacted with was more than helpful. The car hire place at Glasgow (Sixt) was also helpful.

I went to the hospital by myself last week and I wore my lanyard. Again, I felt cared for and I wasn’t rushed from test to test. I was given time and also not kept waiting too long.

The other thing I noticed was that people directed me to the nearest loo’s, which were usually disabled too.” Sandy

“I have used mine at Manchester airport, Leeds Bradford, Milan, Rome, Pisa and Alicante all different times. All were superb. Passport control in Manchester told me to use it there as well when they saw my lanyard. I wasn’t well at the time so it was a godsend.”  Jackie

“Madame Tussauds in London treated myself and my son as VIP’s, with fast track entrance (no queuing); staff assistance on every level and they explained how to alert the next member of staff. They also cleared the pathway through other visitors to guide us to the toilet etc. We also entered the cinema part before everyone.”  Julie

So if you have a hidden condition or disability and you are struggling with your shopping, ask your local supermarket if they are signed up to the Sunflower scheme.

Find our more about the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme

To find out more about the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme visit the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower website.

You can pick up a Sunflower Lanyard from many large retailers including Tesco, Sainsburys, Argos and Marks and Spencer. They’re also available from all major airports and many railway stations. You can find out where the lanyard is recognised by using the search tool on the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower website.