If you have a disability that may not be immediately obvious (impaired hearing, balance difficulties, difficulty with stairs) but would appreciate support from staff in UK airports, certain railways, supermarkets, retail stores, visitor attractions or hospitals, then you may be interested to know there is a lanyard you can wear to signal this.

The lanyard, which is entirely voluntary for people with hidden disabilities and their families, acts as a discreet sign for staff that additional support or help may be required.

The hidden disabilities lanyard is also called the “sunflower lanyard” because of its appearance – a strip of green with a pattern of yellow sunflowers. Once you get one, it is yours to keep and use for future travels, visits and outings where the scheme is recognised.

In 2016, Gatwick launched the first-of-its-kind lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities who may require additional support when travelling through the airport.

For instance, by wearing the lanyard at Gatwick or other major UK airports, you could receive support with:

getting more time to prepare at check-in and security
getting a more comprehensive briefing on what to expect as you travel through the airport
staff assisting with reading a departure board or sign.
The lanyard scheme is gradually being adopted by railways. It is now being used by LNER, which operates the London North Eastern routes, and c2c, which serves 26 stations in East London and South Essex.

Supermarkets and retail stores
In September this year, M&S become the first UK retailer to introduce sunflower lanyards into all of its stores. Sainsbury’s ran a trial of the lanyards early this year in selected branches, and in October, both Sainsbury’s and Argos announced the nationwide rollout of sunflower lanyards in all their stores. Tesco is running a trial in 15 of its Hertfordshire stores.

Vangarde Shopping Park in York and intu Trafford Centre in Manchester are two shopping centres that recognise the scheme.

Visitor attractions and leisure providers
Eureka!, a children’s museum in Yorkshire, joined the lanyard scheme in August 2019. If you’re planning a visit to Eureka!, they have lots of information on accessible visits on their website.

The Royal International Air Tattoo, which stages air shows in Gloucestershire for aircraft enthusiasts, is another attraction currently trialling the lanyard.

The famous Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire and Forest Holidays, a UK holiday provider, have introduced the lanyard scheme.

According to Lincolnshire County Council, seven local heritage attractions have adopted the lanyard.

A number of NHS Trusts including Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London, and Great Western Hospital in Swindon have adopted the lanyard scheme.

How to get a lanyard
Airports: If you’re due to fly from a major UK airport, you should be able to ask for a lanyard from an airport assistance desk, or order it in advance, depending on your chosen airport. Find out more about the best way of getting the lanyard by contacting the airport before you travel.

Railways: For LNER, ask at any station or by contacting customers services. For c2c, ask at station booking offices or by contacting customers services.

Supermarkets and retail stores: Request the lanyard at the customer service desk of larger stores or shopping centres, or at the checkout at smaller stores.

Visitor attractions: Ask at the tills or information points.

Hospitals: The main reception desks should be able to give you a lanyard, or tell you about the other areas of the hospital where you can collect one.

Alternatively, you can purchase the lanyard from the Hidden Disabilities Store.

(N.B. the definition of disability under the current act is very wide, and basically encompasses any long term difficulty which impacts on daily living and working. It does mean that you have to be a person with a registered disability, or the holder of a blue badge for a car.)

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