You know how airports make you walk miles, and miles... oh and miles just to get from A to B (via K, M and S)?
It's all about time management and not mixing passengers up from flight to flight and making sure that you don't get to the carousels far too early to collect your luggage. Well, as someone with fibromyalgia - I'd rather just be sitting down and waiting, instead of being sent around the houses. I don't have the energy!
Back in May 2018, I met with the former Minister for Transport, Paul Maynard MP at a Fibro Awareness AGM. Paul suffers from epilepsy and cerebral palsy. He is perfectly coherent and 'walks in a straight line'.
Paul wanted to make a difference in his role at the time, for the people with hidden disabilities. He, like myself, occasionally travels by air and found it pretty stereotypical to be carted around the airport in a wheelchair. He thought that if there was something that could be implemented that didn't just tar us all with the same brush. The Sunflower Lanyard scheme was formed.
It acts as a discreet sign to staff and work colleagues that the wearer (or somebody who is with them) has a hidden disability and may require additional assistance.
The scheme was first launched at Gatwick Airport in May 2016 and has now been adopted in the UK by most of the major airports, supermarkets, and railway companies, as well as in the NHS. Each day, many more organisations are joining the scheme and it is also starting to be known globally. With this increased awareness, we the Sunflower Lanyard wearers benefit more widely from help being offered to make our traveling, shopping and daily living a little easier.
"Wearing the Sunflower Lanyard indicates to people around you that help may be required, and that help may be different for each person. You can use the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower to tell people about the type of assistance you need – it may be as simple as a little more time. There is no qualifying list to being able to access a lanyard as we do not exclude people who have yet to be diagnosed and whose daily life is made more challenging by their hidden disability. If you feel that you are unable to have a conversation with a member of staff due to your condition, perhaps consider writing down the type of help you might need so that you can hand it to them."
I asked for mine from Birmingham Airport, Special Assistance Desk in 2018. No questions asked. I was able to just walk around the airport freely - without the need for a wheelchair etc. As I approached the Security lanes, a lovely lady spotted my lanyard and directed me to a priority lane. WOW - that was swift. At first, a security person questioned why I was in the priority lane but then backed off when he saw the lanyard.
"I'm terribly sorry, but I'm not used to seeing them higher than three feet off the floor!"
In other words, he'd only seen them on children with hidden disabilities. I told him that we were all children at heart and smiled. The staff allowed me to take my time as I had to remove outer clothing etc. and was feeling 'fibro stiff' that morning.
As soon as I was through, I headed to find my gate. On the sojourn, I noted that staff 'clocked' me and my lanyard. I got to the gate but had walked a fair distance, and sat down in the only available seat - this flight was full. Once again I was spotted and called to the desk to be told that I could take priority boarding (I must have looked shattered at this point). Once on the plane, you guessed it, the staff had eyed the lanyard again and helped me get my carry on into the overhead lockers. I was comfortable.
"Anyone who has a hidden disability and who would benefit from the scheme can now have access to them. Some people may not be close to places where they are freely available and would prefer to have them delivered directly to them. If that is the case, lanyards are available to buy from this website.
"Sunflower Lanyards are available free of charge to customers from many businesses and organisations who have joined the scheme..."
The small cost of buying a lanyard from the website covers its production and distribution as well as employing staff to help manage the scheme and look after the website. Click here to buy a lanyard