By 2016, the Accessibility team at Gatwick Airport were already assisting over 500,000 passengers a year but recognised that some passengers had a non-obvious disability. How could they assist them too?
So they started to explore the idea of using a symbol to allow passengers to choose to indicate they have an invisible disability and may need some support, assistance or simply a little more time.
Alongside the Aiport Passenger Advisory Group, the Gatwick Team, which included Ruth Rabet who is now the Sunflower Business Development Director, engaged with local and national charities to assess whether the concept was one that would benefit people living with hidden disabilities. They also wanted guidance on the design of the symbol as well as whether any colour or patterns combinations should be avoided. And a series of discussions took place - with Tim Wilkins from the Alzheimer’s Society, Daniel Williams from Visualise, Daniel Cadey, formerly from the National Autistic Society, as well as with Maria Cook from Autism Support Crawley, whose son Ryan is autistic.
Following this evaluation, the Sunflower was chosen to reflect the idea of confidence, growth and strength shown by people with hidden disabilities, as well as introducing happiness and positivity.
As the Sunflower evolves, we feel it important to continue to work alongside organisations, charities and individuals with hidden disabilities to evolve the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.
Click on the years to explore the Sunflower history:
The Sunflower Lanyard Scheme® launches at London Gatwick Airport
The lanyard is designed to identify passengers with a hidden disability who may need additional help while travelling
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard rolls out across all major UK airports
UK rail providers become members of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme®.
The Co-operative Channel Islands is the first UK supermarket chain to pilot the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard
Major UK supermarkets trials take place
NHS trusts and independent GP surgeries trial and launch the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme®
Work with international airports including sharing training materials and advising on best practices
Tabbers Limited trademarks the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme®
Cinemas and visitor attractions launch the scheme throughout the UK
M&S is the first UK supermarket to roll out the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard in all their UK stores; Sainsbury's and Argos launch throughout their UK stores; and Tesco launch in all of their stores in the UK and Ireland
Banks, hospitals, insurance companies, shopping centres, sports venues, and arenas join across the UK
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower online store opens up to the general public.
Facebook Page 25,000 likes within a few days - individuals and businesses from all over the world become aware and request the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard.
Global airports launch the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower:
Sydney and Brisbane in Australia
Seattle and San Jose in the US
Copenhagen, Trieste and Amsterdam in Europe
Istanbul in Eurasia and Dubai in the Middle-East
Over 2 million lanyards distributed globally
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower training videos are released for businesses and organisations to train their staff
Nationwide trials the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower becoming the first financial institution to join the scheme
Chelsea Football Club launch
National lockdown starts in the UK - new Sunflower cards released to raise awareness and support people with hidden disabilities during the pandemic
National Express becomes the 1st national road transport business to recognise the Sunflower
Sunflower Stories launched - a series of interviews to find out more about Sunflower wearers' experience of living with a hidden disability
Face coverings mandatory on all UK public transport - Hidden Disabilities Sunflower collaborates with the national rail network to find a way to support those people whose hidden disability means they are unable to wear a face covering. The result is a Sunflower face covering exempt card to indicate that the person wearing it has a hidden disability and that hidden disability makes them exempt according to the UK Government guidelines.
Hidden in Heritage 2020 - Hidden Disabilities Sunflower creates and launches an online festival to shine a light on hidden disabilities in heritage
Australia and New Zealand launch - partnering with Bayley House
North American launch - partnering with The Sourcing Group
Pearson Airport becomes the first airport in Canada to recognise the Sunflower
Students return to university - Hidden Disabilities Sunflower launches its Back to Campus campaign to support students living with a hidden disability
International Day of Persons with Disabilities -Hidden Disabilities Sunflower releases its 'Hidden Disabilities and me' poetry book, an anthology of poems written by Sunflower wearers and supporters
Borderforce UK launch the Sunflower to ensure everyone travelling into the UK wearing a Sunflower will be provisioned for by Borderforce staff
UK vaccine roll-out - HIdden Disabilities Sunflower launch 'Our Sunflower, Your NHS' campaign to provide free Sunflower products and training to every Covid vaccination centre in the UK, to ensure that wearers of the Sunflower will be supported whilst receiving their vaccination