It’s a misconception that people living with a disability don’t want to, or can't travel. They do and they can. Globally one billion people live with some sort of disability and while some experience a disability that is visible, for many their disability is not obvious. Our aim, here at Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, is to help shape a world where people with invisible disabilities feel confident to travel independently. Whether by air, sea or land we want you to receive the understanding, patience or help that makes your journey a more comfortable experience: from the terminal or station, to boarding the flight, train or ferry; while on your method of transport and when you arrive at your destination!
Is disabled travel the future of travel?
To help bust the myth that people with disabilities don't want to, or can't, travel, we asked you to share your Sunflower travels with us once you got home, so that we can demonstrate to the world how often people with invisible disabilities do travel.
For those who do not know what it is – the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower has one simple purpose: You choose to wear a Sunflower lanyard, badge or wristband, when it suits you, to let people discreetly know that you, or someone with you, has a non-visible disability and may need extra help, understanding, or just more time.
It's now September and our Sunflower travel map is looking pretty impressive with over 225 people's travel dots spanning every continent in the world. Europe and the USA have so far emerged as travel hot spots with lots of you choosing to visit Spain, Greece, Turkey and, in the USA, Florida.
With the majority of UK airports included in the 167 airports around the world that officially support the Sunflower, we hope that you received recognition and support by airport staff at both your departure and arrival terminals.
Happily, some of you opted to fly with one of the airlines that recognise the Sunflower with 18 people choosing to travel with British Airways, the first UK airline to become a Sunflower member. The aviation sector has always been a huge supporter of the Sunflower initiative. As many of you will be aware, the Sunflower lanyard was first developed with Gatwick airport back in 2016 and since then it has been adopted by just under 170 airports across the globe. It's really encouraging that we are now seeing the airlines themselves recognising the importance of the programme. As Tom Stevens, British Airways’ Director of Brand and Customer Experience, said: “Almost half a million customers who require additional assistance fly with British Airways each year. We’re proud to be the first UK airline to partner with Hidden Disabilities Sunflower and are committed to doing everything we can to support customers who may need additional assistance as part of our BA Better World programme, so they can have the best possible experience when travelling with us.”
A sentiment shared by Air New Zealand's Chief People Officer Nikki Dines: “Working alongside Auckland Airport to support the recognition of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard will ensure customers who need more support will have a more seamless and less stressful travel experience.
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is such a great way to help our people and customers connect to ensure a great journey and signal some customers may need extra assistance. As the world opens back up, we want all customers to feel supported to travel.”
Taking to the skies with Turkish Airlines
During the month of August, we welcomed our third airline to the Sunflower, as Turkish Airlines joined British Airways and Air New Zealand in officially recognising the initiative. Turkish Airlines has added the Sunflower to its Accessible Travel application to improve the travel experience of its guests with disabilities and reduced mobility.
Within the scope of the airlines, "Differences Add Value" programme, the Sunflower helps both ground handling personnel and cabin crew identify passengers who have an invisible disability such as autism, dementia, anxiety disorder, visual and hearing impairments. Making it possible to allocate more time to passengers who may need special attention.
Paul White, CEO of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower said: “We are pleased that Turkish Airlines has joined the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower's global network. Having achieved the success of providing our training to its 17,000 personnel, Turkish Airlines demonstrates its determination to make aviation accessible at a high level. Passengers with invisible disabilities are welcomed with the kindness, understanding and care of the Turkish Airlines family and can safely travel to 129 countries in the world.”
Sunflower lanyards can be obtained from assistance counters located in both the domestic and international terminals of Istanbul Airport.
Let's see how far the Sunflower travels
We'd love to see how many of you are opting to fly with Turkish airlines, so if you've recently completed a journey with them or indeed, any other journey, why not take two minutes to let us know on our Sunflower travels page.
Disabled travel tip
Do you dream of going somewhere but worry about not understanding or speaking the native language? It’s a valid concern, and one that can mean many travellers get stuck on where to travel or worse, to not travel at all.
Without knowing the language of the place you are visiting, it can be daunting to let people know that you have an invisible disability and may need extra support. We have translated our standard Sunflower card into languages most commonly used in popular travel destinations and, to help where the Sunflower is not widely recognised, we have also created and translated a card that explains its purpose. So don’t worry about not speaking the language, travel widely and let the Sunflower speak for you using our international Sunflower cards. It can help you get the support, assistance, or just that little more time when you need it.
Discover more disabled travel tips
Is your organisation a member of the Sunflower network?
Is your place of work Sunflower friendly? If not then why not suggest they look into becoming members of the Sunflower. We provide training and assistance to help businesses recognise the Sunflower in order to support individuals with non-visible disabilities and become confident in providing them with additional help or assistance.
Join an impressive network of organisations so our Sunflower wearers can find you as they plan their days out:
- add your location to the Sunflower location map
- provide details useful for Sunflower-friendly visits
- demonstrate how accessible you are
- tell your story though articles
- and even reveal your Sunflower-friendly events.
Find out how to join here