It has been a busy month at Hidden Disabilities Sunflower in Ireland, especially as globally April is World Autism Awareness month. HDS Ireland have been involved in autism awareness events, and have had a number of new organisations join us.

Cottage Autism Network

In April we were joined by Cottage Autism Network in Wexford. Cottage Autism Network is a voluntary based charity located in County Wexford and aims to improve the quality of life of families by providing support, promoting equality and inclusion of autistic children and teenagers as well as raising awareness in the community by being a voice for our members. They organise weekly subsidised activities such as: swimming, therapeutic horse riding, youth club, bowling and much more for children with ASD. You can find out more about Cottage Autism Network here

Autism Heroes

Tristan stands at the Sunflower table top booth with his son. There are Hidden Disabilities banners each side of them and they stand in front of a window

Our Sales Director joined Autism Heroes in Carlow on World Autism Awareness Day for their first Autism conference. We were able to introduce a number of those in attendance to the Sunflower lanyard, and spoke to lots of new supporters.

Wicklow County Council

During the month, we welcomed our very first County Council to the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Ireland’s network. Wicklow County Council, working alongside Triple A Alliance to develop the implementation of the scheme which will recognise the Sunflower lanyard in all of its public offices and libraries.

The lanyard is intended to alert County staff that the person wearing it has a hidden disability and may need extra assistance, understanding or more time.

People with non-visible disabilities living in or visiting County Wicklow are able to collect a Sunflower lanyard free of charge from any of the public offices or libraries.

Welcoming the announcement, Cllr Tommy Annesley, Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, was proud to officially launch the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower in Wicklow County Council. He wished local group Triple A Alliance continued success in spreading the availability of the lanyards in other public buildings and businesses around County Wicklow and thanked the Department of Rural and Community Development for providing funding for the initiative through the Community Enhancement Programme.

A group of people, women, men and children, stood in front of a Tripple Alliance banner. Everyone wears Sunflower lanyards

Rebecca Galligan of Triple A Alliance thanked Wicklow County Council and its staff for their commitment towards making Wicklow an inclusive place for all and stated:

“The introduction of the Sunflower lanyard across County Wicklow is a first for a county, and a huge leap for inclusion. For many years we in Wicklow Triple A Alliance have campaigned for inclusion and equality for the hidden aspects of autism which can often cause so much unintended stigma. The beauty of this system is that it includes all persons who have a hidden (or obvious) disability and goes to show that a little can go a long way when people work together.

We look forward to the next phase of this project and thank the many businesses and organisations who have reached out to join us in becoming a Sunflower supporter. We are currently in contact with other Councils who wish to make their counties more inclusive by recognising the Sunflower system.”

Tristan Casson-Rennie, Regional Director, Ireland & Northern Ireland for Hidden Disabilities Sunflower said:

“I am delighted that Wicklow County Council and Triple A Alliance have worked together on this joint venture to introduce this initiative.  Wicklow County Council becomes the first County Council in Ireland to recognise the Sunflower across all of its public offices and libraries.”

All the team at Wicklow County Council have participated or are currently participating in Sunflower training and I am confident that Sunflower wearers will be met with kindness, patience and understanding by the Council team whenever visiting a public office or a library.”

The Sunflower Pops-UP in Ennis

Over the Easter holidays we were invited to open another Sunflower Pop-up window in our home town in Ennis. David at Pat McCarthy Shoes offered us the opportunity to display lots of our wearables, facts and figures about Hidden Disabilities in a vacant shop window attached to our office. It resulted in a number of enquiries on our social media platforms about wearables, and of course, from people who wear the Sunflower who work in various organisations wondering how they can get their employer to join. If you have a window space that is currently vacant for a minimum of a week – and would like to help us raise awareness, please email [email protected] for more information. Our sincere thanks to David for providing us with the window once again.

DHL Express

A male DHL delivery driver. His yellow DHL van is behind him. It has a Sunflower sticker on the windscreen

Our Offices in Ennis receive daily deliveries of Sunflower products to distribute all around Ireland. DHL Express Ireland make these deliveries, and our absolutely amazing delivery driver Alan told us that he has a hidden disability. Alan has been spreading the word about the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower when he is regularly asked about his wrist band or his pin badge. We were delighted to offer Alan a sticker for his van window and within minutes he had it placed on his windscreen! 

Driving from Ireland to UK over the summer?

Finally, we know that it is coming up to the time of year where you may be considering travelling to see friends and family across the world. Whether you decide to take your own car on one of the ferry routes to England; or you hire a vehicle when you arrive in England, you will be able to traverse the country safe in the knowledge that if you are displaying a Sunflower vehicle sticker or magnet - National Highways England will ask what support you may need to help keep you safe if your vehicle has broken down or you require assistance on the roadside. You can find out more about this here