Travels with the Sunflower

Make the journey easier by showing that you have a non-visible disability

Originally published on: June 16th, 2022.

Globally one billion people live with some sort of disability and while some experience a disability that is visible, for many it is not visible. It is the largest minority group in the world, one that any of us can join at any time. 

Often, it is thought that many people living with a disability don’t travel and enjoy tourism – they do want to and they do travel. Everyone has the right to choose to travel and to choose where they want to go – whether it’s two weeks in the sun, a city break or a day out close to home.

Hidden in plain sight

Going away from home for many people with disabilities can be difficult – leaving the safety of what is familiar and experiencing new and unusual situations can be confusing and challenging, transport can present many obstacles and finding a location that is accessible for you is not always simple. This can be even more difficult if your needs are not apparent to others as your disability is one that is not immediately visible. 

Non-visible disabilities cover not only neurological conditions, but also physical and mental conditions as well as speech impairments, and sensory loss. They also include respiratory conditions as well as chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic pain, and sleep disorders when these significantly impact day-to-day life. 

These conditions present differently in everyone, but because they often have few physical indicators, people with non-visible disabilities often face a lack of understanding and negative attitudes including insensitive questioning and judgmental looks when using accessible resources.

Although you may not be able to see these invisible impairments and conditions, they’re still there.

Travels with the Sunflower

Get away in your own way

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is here to help overcome some of the barriers faced when travelling. By choosing to wear the Sunflower when it suits you, you indicate to others around you that you have a non-visible disability and may need some additional support, understanding or just more time. 

Many museums, attractions, hotels and other transport links, both in the UK and around the world, have joined the Sunflower network to support people with non-visible disabilities. Explore Sunflower-friendly locations on our map here.

In the air

If you are planning on flying, consider using Sunflower-friendly airports as you explore the world. The Sunflower is now recognised by over 156 airports around the world, with a presence in 20 countries and is supported by British Airways and Air New Zealand. 

Our aim is to get your trip off to a good start – from the terminal to boarding the flight, on the flight and arriving at your destination! Discover Sunflower-friendly airports here.

What about language?

Without knowing the language of the place you are visiting, it can be daunting to let people know that you have an invisible disability and may need extra support. Many travellers get stuck on where to travel or worse, not travel at all, as they are concerned  about not understanding or speaking the native language.

Translating a card that explains your non-visible disability and your needs in the native language can help overcome this barrier.

Closer to home

You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a truly memorable holiday – the UK is home to many popular, world-class destinations – from fascinating cities, spectacular countryside and a breath-taking coastline. 

Whether you travel by car, air, sea or rail, you can use the Sunflower to make your travel easier. Network Rail, National Rail, London Transport, Lothian Buses and Serco NorthLink Ferries are just a few of the UK transport providers that have joined the Sunflower network.

And hiring or having your own leisure vehicle means you can get away on our own terms or travel in your own private space. Explore sites for The Caravan and Motorhome Club – each site clearly indicates accessibility features so you can research where you want to explore the great UK outdoors.

Free Sunflower on the road in England

We’ve teamed up with National Highways, who manage England’s motorways and major A-roads, to create a free Sunflower for your vehicle. National Highways traffic officers are often first on scene in an emergency and displaying the Sunflower sticker or magnet on the rear of your vehicle will indicate to them and roadside and emergency services in England that you or someone in your vehicle has a non-visible disability. 

In many ways someone’s impairment is always invisible when they’re in a vehicle  So anyone with an impairment, hidden or visible, can display the Sunflower on their vehicle. This Sunflower is free and you can order one from here.

The Sunflower makes the invisible visible

Our aim is a world where people with invisible disabilities are confident to travel independently. Wearing the Sunflower from start to finish will allow you to receive the help, support and understanding throughout your journey. 

Have a fantastic summer and wherever you’re off to, travel safe!

Further Information

For more information about travelling abroad with the Sunflower, visit Hidden Disabilities website.

You can also access our Travelling with Confidence article online, or download our handy guide to keep with you when you’re on the move. This will help you plan ahead for your journey and avoid issues wherever possible. Be sure to check the guidelines for travel with your chosen destination and travel company however as these may be subject to change.

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