Sunflowers as a sign for hidden disabilities

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February 16, 2024, by Day Undefined and Ellie 
Have you ever heard about the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme? 

A sunflower is a global symbol for people with hidden disabilities. By wearing the sunflower, you’re letting everyone know that you might need extra help, understanding, or just more time.

How it started

This idea started in 2016 at Gatwick London Airport. The Gatwick team, including Ruth Rabet, worked with many different organizations to assess whether using a lanyard would help people with hidden disabilities be more visible to the public. The group decided on a lanyard with sunflowers on a green background to reflect the idea of confidence, strength, and growth.

Soon after they launched the lanyard, they started to make training videos for businesses and organizations in other countries, and now the symbol is recognized in airports around the world and by countless organizations across sectors, including schools, theme parks, theaters, healthcare facilities, government agencies, and financial institutions. You can find more information about their history and timeline here: hdsunflower.com.

My experience

One of my good friends was at the Fort Lauderdale airport when he saw the sunflower sign. Here’s a photo of it:

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Image: A screen with a picture of a sunflower says “Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program.”

I was traveling with my family to Chicago when I found this out. So I decided to wear one of my own. I did not have a green lanyard, but I did have a yellow one. I also attached my Ataxia medical card (I got this medical card on Etsy) and a card with the National Ataxia Foundation (NAF) logo on it.

Later, I decided to purchase the green sunflower lanyard with the Hidden Disability Card from their website, Shop – Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

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Image: A green lanyard with sunflowers and two cards attached to it. Beside the lanyard is another card with sunflowers that says “I have a hidden disability”

I noticed when I was getting on the train that the worker standing outside did notice me because I had the lanyard on with my Ataxia card hooked onto it. I think it is a very good idea to wear this lanyard (especially when traveling) in order to communicate that you may need extra help or support. For me, it was helpful because at times when I do not have my walking stick, I have another form of communicating to others that I may need help. I will continue to wear this when traveling so I do not need to verbalize needing help so much. Hope this is helpful!

Would you try wearing a Sunflower? Do you have ways that you communicate needing additional help while traveling? We’d love to hear in the comments. 

Day Undefined

We would like to thank Day Undefined and Ellie for sharing this story with us. 

Please share your thoughts and/or comments on this or any other article.  And if you would like to get involved and share your experience with Ataxia, please contact us.  Join our community today.  A place where we empower you to build a healthy lifestyle and raise overdue Ataxia Awareness.  Experience transformative storytelling and share your story to inspire positive change.


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