Sunflower lanyards are brightening the way for people with disability

Posted 1 month ago by Georgie Waters
Wearing a lanyard may seem like a small step, but the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme is helping people with disability receive assistance in public areas. [Source: Shuttershock]
Wearing a lanyard may seem like a small step, but the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme is helping people with disability receive assistance in public areas. [Source: Shuttershock]

Living with invisible disability is now recognised more easily when a person wears a sunflower lanyard.

Key points:

  • The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme was developed to highlight to staff in public areas that the wearer of the lanyard lives with hidden disability
  • The sunflower lanyards can be picked up for free at numerous airports and shopping centres


Since being launched in 2016, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme has helped people with hidden disability navigate public spaces, with extra support being given by workers who recognise the symbol. The sunflower is ideal for such a scheme, as sunflowers often represent strength, growth and confidence.

Around 4.4 million Australians are reported to have disability, with many of these people living with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities and mental health issues. A hidden disability means that while the person still struggles, there are no visible signs of disability, unlike the presence of a wheelchair for someone who can’t walk, for example.

People with hidden disability, such as autism spectrum disorder, might struggle with changing plans, loud announcements and crowded areas. In environments like airports, which have all of these attributes, a person with autism spectrum disorder may find this overwhelming and difficult to proceed through the airport. In such cases, many Australian airports provide training for their workers to identify the sunflower lanyard and provide more time and assistance for those wearing it. 

Australian airports now incorporating the sunflower lanyard scheme include:

According to information on the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower website, over 240 airports globally have adopted the Sunflower scheme to assist travellers with hidden disability.

Getting a sunflower lanyard is now easier than ever, with some airports offering free sunflower lanyards and wristbands. Contact your local airport at least 10 days before departure, as they may post the items out to you.

Australian shopping centres, such as Westfield, may also offer the free lanyard which can be picked up from the concierge stands. 

If you don’t feel like venturing out to get a sunflower lanyard, these lanyards and other sunflower merchandise can be purchased online. On this website, you can also show your support for people with disability, even if you do not experience it first-hand. Instead of green lanyards with sunflowers, supporters can purchase items that indicate they are ‘proud to support the sunflower.’ Badges, lanyards, pins and wristbands for supporters are available in white.

Supporters who wear the lanyards help to build awareness in the general public of the fact that not all disabilities are visible and that some people may need more time or a little support in day-to-day activities in the community. This may also help to facilitate discussions about how not all disabilities are visible. 

In addition to the sunflower scheme, further assistance is also being provided at some airports, such as Adelaide Airport. Support dogs are available to the public to provide a calming presence in what can be an otherwise busy and stressful environment. Elmo, the Adelaide airport facility dog, is available on weekdays from 9am – 5pm and can accompany people through the process of navigating the airport and associated processes. To check Elmo’s availability and to get more information, email: [email protected]. Different airports may offer this service, but it’s recommended that you contact the relevant airports before travelling.

To get more information about hidden disability and how you can help as a member of the community, have a look at our article: What are the types of hidden disabilities? 


Do you have a sunflower lanyard? How has this helped you participate in activities such as travelling? 

Let the team at Talking Disability know your thoughts on social media. 

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