International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2023 is a renewed opportunity to reassert our dedication towards forging a society that is both accessible and inclusive to everyone. It is not merely a day but a year-round commitment to eliminating barriers, promoting inclusivity, and ensuring that our shared spaces - physical, digital, and social - are accessible to all. 

Together, we can build an inclusive world where everyone is seen, heard and valued

Inclusion is about more than simply acknowledging diversity. It's about actively seeking to understand and value every individual's experiences and perspectives. It's about creating a community where everyone feels heard, seen, and appreciated for who they are.

At Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, we aim to convey a simple but powerful message. Every individual with a non-visible disability, condition or chronic illness should not only be confident to take part in everyday life, knowing that they will be supported when they need to be, but also that each one has a meaningful role to play in society. We firmly believe that creating an environment of understanding, acceptance, and respect is a shared responsibility that binds us all.

The role of the community in promoting inclusion

Every community thrive on the unique blend of individuals that forms its intricate social fabric. The secret to making it an inclusive environment lies within the everyday interactions of the individuals that comprise the community. It's about committing to understand and respect the experiences of those living with non-visible disabilities, recognising that their daily challenges may not be immediately noticeable.

The more we listen to stories from people with non-visible disabilities, learn from their experiences and involve them in decision-making, the better we can dispel misunderstandings, eradicate stigma, and cultivate a sense of belonging.

The Power of the Sunflower

For those unaware of what the Sunflower is, it is a symbol that individuals with non-visible disabilities can use to signal that they might need a helping hand, understanding or just a bit more time. By wearing the Sunflower, individuals are prompting others to ask a simple question: 'How can I help you?' to focus on the support they may need. But it's more than a visual cue for assistance or patience; it raises awareness of non-visible disabilities and the challenges faced by those living with them.

The Sunflower symbolises a pledge to inclusion, but it doesn't stop there. Inclusion is a continuous process that demands consistent effort, dedication, and, above all, empathy. It requires us all to constantly question, learn, and adapt. The Sunflower is a catalyst for change, enabling us to learn, grow, and contribute to an inclusive society. It is a tangible embodiment of the empathy, understanding, and respect we must always carry. 

Inclusion is also about accessibility

Inclusion means making destinations, products, services and digital spaces accessible - to exclude no one. For us, that means that people are not barred from accessing information, local transportation, accommodation, shopping, and dining based on experiencing a disability. Education about non-visible disabilities plays a crucial role in achieving accessibility. We continue to proactively provide training to our Sunflower Business members, raising awareness about the Sunflower and the importance of acknowledging non-visible disabilities.

Every effort, no matter how small, can make a difference

Every conversation sparked, every barrier broken, every Sunflower wearer supported, help to continue to make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for everyone.

So, continue to spark conversations, challenge misconceptions, and celebrate diversity. The goal is not just to make society a more inclusive place but to make inclusion a fundamental part of its identity. At the end of the day, inclusion is not just about creating a society that is fair and accessible for all but about creating a culture that values and celebrates every individual's unique contribution.