2022 was a busy year for the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower. The Sunflower officially launched in the United Arab Emirates, we provided Sunflower training to lots of new organisations and charities from across the world and produced 30 episodes of the Sunflower Conversations. By the end of 2022, we'd expanded our Hidden Disabilities Index and created many new Sunflower cards to support and highlight the wide range of disabilities, conditions and chronic illnesses that aren't immediately apparent. We also supported people with invisible disabilities at World Expo 2020, which ran from Oct 21 to March 22, continued to raise awareness of non-obvious disabilities through our campaigns, newsletter and social media and even found time to win a few awards!
United Arab Emirates
The Sunflower officially launched in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December at AccessAbilities Expo 2022. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is brought to the region by our new partner, Topland - People of Determination, an award-winning, leading supplier of assistive technology products and services for People of Determination. Topland participate in many projects both within the UAE and internationally to help businesses and organisations from every sector and industry improve their accessibility for people of determination.
The Sunflower is not a completely new concept in the UAE. Earlier in 2022, the Sunflower successfully supported people with invisible disabilities who attended World Expo 2020 in Dubai. World Expo ran from October 2021 – March 2022 and welcomed 24 million visitors from around the world. Of these visitors, statistically speaking, 1 in 7 would have a disability, and 80% of these would ave a hidden disability.
Poetry competition – Getting around invisible disabilities and me
Following our successful 2020 poetry competition, last January we launched our 2022 poetry competition, 'Getting around - invisible disabilities and me', to continue to raise awareness of non-visible disabilities. The theme for the 2022 competition focussed on getting around - whether that be by foot, road, rail, sea or in the air!
Our three judges, Samuel Tongue from the Scottish Poetry Library, one of our Sunflower wearers campaigning to raise awareness of invisible disabilities, Fire Phoenix Rising and Dave Steele an award-winning poet, author, public speaker, singer, and advocate for the blind, were looking for originality, authenticity and creativity in the wealth of work submitted. All three judges were blown away by the standard of entries we received. Prizes were awarded to:
- Eve Roome for 'Me and my hidden disability'
- Amber Safia for 'Defenceless vulnerability: the daily feud of social anxiety'
- Brier-Rain Merrymead for 'Our Sunflower'
- Kathy Cox for 'Just shopping'
- Ashley Bowler for 'I cling to this chill'
- Lauren Golden for 'Getting around on holiday'
- Diana Hudson for 'It won’t beat me'
- Elizabeth Baillie for 'Ahm young, but no invincible'.
An anthology of the competition entries can be bought in our store.
New places to be – highlights of 2022
There were hundreds of businesses, organisations and charities that made the commitment to recognise and support the Sunflower across the globe in 2022. Unfortunately, we don't have the space to talk about all of new joiners but here are a few highlights from across our regions from last year.
Ireland - Ryanair
At the end of October, Ryanair became the first Irish airline to join the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower network, recognising Sunflower lanyards.
Tristan Casson-Rennie, Regional Director, Ireland & Northern Ireland for Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, said:
“We are delighted that Ryanair, the largest European airline by scheduled passengers, has joined the global Hidden Disabilities Sunflower network. Passengers with non-visible disabilities can fly to 36 countries knowing that they will be supported by Ryanair crew in 228 airports.
Travel is becoming more accessible for people who are disabled, extending the opportunities for exploration, work and play. Sunflower wearers will be met with kindness, patience and understanding by the Ryanair team from check-in to the end of their flight.”
The Netherlands – Dutch House of Representative
November 2022 was an exciting month for Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Netherlands & Belgium as on 14 November, and we officially launched the Sunflower at the House of Representatives of the Netherlands (Tweede Kamer). Together with eight Sunflower wearers and their families, we were invited to attend The Hague for the official ceremony hosted by the speaker Vera Bergkamp. Some of the Sunflower wearers got the opportunity to explain the challenges that they face with an invisible disability. We are very grateful to Liane den Haan from the Goud Nederland political party, who made this all possible.
The UK – Sofology
In May 2022, we were thrilled to announce that Sofology joined the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower network. Sofology is committed to providing all of its customers with an in-store experience that works for them, helping them feel at home in their stores.
As a responsible retailer dedicated to delivering exceptional experiences for their customers, Sofology is passionate about ensuring each of their stores is a safe and inclusive environment for all, so all of their customers should be able to find a sofa they love and find one in a way that works for them.
The UK – Centre Parcs
As of Friday 1 July, Sunflower lanyards and pin badges were made free of charge to colleagues and guests at Center Parcs across all six of their villages (five in the UK and one in Ireland) and at their Head Office in Nottinghamshire.
The Sunflower allows guests with non-visible disabilities to discreetly let colleagues know that they may need extra support, understanding or more time. Whether that’s adjusting an activity for them to join in, providing more information in a restaurant or meeting additional needs in the lodge – Center Parcs colleagues will go above and beyond to assist so you can enjoy your break.
Australia – The Melbourne Cricket Club
The Melbourne Cricket Ground became Sunflower-friendly offering their iconic Sports Museum as a place for renewal during the games on the field, and their service delivery partner Delaware North also joined ensuring a seamless experience for all attendees.
The Sunflower Conversations
Our podcast, the Sunflower Conversations, delivers a deeper understanding of the Sunflower's role in supporting people with non-visible disabilities. During 2022 we recorded 30 episodes, which received over 6,000 downloads, covering a spectrum of issues relating to invisible disabilities. The topics are often personal and explore invisible disabilities through the prism of the Sunflower with guests hosted by members of the Sunflower team. Listen and subscribe to our podcasts here.
In the air
In March, we launched our In the air campaign to highlight the misconception that people living with a disability don’t want to or can't travel. Since the launch of this campaign, we've welcomed 45 airports and 5 airlines and gained exposure to 4 new countries!
British Airways became the first UK airline to support the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower officially. They were closely followed by Turkish Airlines, Air New Zealand, Ryanair and KLM.
Welcoming our first airlines in 2022 was an important milestone for the Sunflower. The Sunflower has been recognised in airports since it's origin in 2016 but had not previously been officially recognised by the airlines serving the airports. Now wearers can embark on their travels securely in the knowledge that they will be supported throughout the entire customer journey, helping to reduce the stress and anxiety that can sometimes be associated with travel.
To support the In the air campaign, we asked you to tell us about your travels by adding your travel dot to our Let's see how far the Sunflower travels map. In 2022, over 200 Sunflower wearers recorded their travels that touched every continent of the world.
The Sunflower was Purple Tuesday's global Disability Partner for 2022, joining more than 2,000 businesses and organisations to improve the customer experience for disabled people by supporting Purple Tuesday.
Purple Tuesday is the #1 brand working to improve the experiences of disabled people as customers 365 days a year. On Tuesday 1 November 2022, we celebrated all the changes organisations have made that have positively impacted the disabled customer experience and recognise the value of disabled people.
To get involved, organisations must make one new commitment to improve their accessibility and practices. This could be anything from improving their digital accessibility to becoming a disability confident employer or simply joining the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.
And the award goes to . . .
During 2022, the Shaw Trust and Conde Nast recognised us in their annual awards.
The Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 celebrates success, inclusion and advocacy. It highlights the pioneers, the change-makers and the influencers opening doors for future generations. Paving the way for disabled people, families, employers, organisations and governments to break down prejudice and work towards the creation of a fairer, more inclusive world today, all working to change perceptions of what is possible. The Disability Power 100 judges reviewed more than 700 nominations from the public for disabled leaders across a wide range of sectors. And we are thrilled to announce that the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower was included in the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 finalists!
In their inaugural Bright Ideas in Travel 2022, Condé Nast Traveller celebrated their 35th Anniversary with an issue dedicated to innovation and invention in the world of travel. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower was included for its outstanding role in making travel more accessible and inclusive for travellers with non-visible disabilities. We are one of 56 key players highlighted as pioneering the Future of Travel alongside Hilton, Airbnb, Booking.com, Revolve Air, Istanbul Airport, SpaceX and Neom.
Our world record attempt - the world's longest lanyard
We finished the year by announcing that we want to raise awareness of just how many invisible disabilities there are by attempting to create the world's longest lanyard.
You can be a part of our attempt by visiting this page and adding a disability, condition or chronic illness to our list. Each new disability increases the length of our lanyard. We're setting our sights high and aim to have captured so many different kinds of hidden disabilities that we'll produce the world's longest lanyard by the time our team heads to Naidex in March 2023, where we'll meet with a Guinness World Record's officiant who will measure the lanyard!
So please reveal a hidden disability, enter your details and help take the Sunflower lanyard on this journey by sharing our world record attempt with as many people as you can!