Updated: Nov 3, 2021
You may have seen someone wearing a sunflower lanyard, but what does it mean?
The green and yellow sunflower lanyard is a discrete, yet visible means of indicating that the wearer has a hidden disability. Being aware of this message will help you to be more understanding and patient in customer or colleague interactions. Equally, you might wear one to signal that you have a hidden disability.
What is a Hidden Disability?
Many people with a disability display no visible signs of their condition. They might be epileptic, autistic, diabetic or have learning disabilities. They might suffer from cystic fibrosis, chronic pain, depression or many other conditions. By choosing to wear the sunflower lanyard, they are making others aware that they may need extra support, care or time.
If you see a customer or colleague wearing the sunflower lanyard, ask them if they need any assistance; how can you help? There is no need for them to disclose their disability. The nature of their condition isn’t important; providing the additional support they need is.
Why not Disclose a Disability?
One of the challenges for organisations that are working on improving their services for vulnerable customers is knowing who has additional needs. They want to encourage customers to share information, however, this can be challenging.
Firstly, the opportunity to share information doesn’t always arise. In a world of digital interactions, time-limited calls and automated emails, who do you tell?
Many customers will fail to see the benefit of informing all the companies they deal with about their condition. What’s in it for them and how will this information be used? Equal opportunities may be a legal requirement, yet discrimination is rife. Customers may fear that disclosure could negatively impact how they are treated or limit the services they have access to.
This links to trust. How will the person you are disclosing to react and what will happen to the information that is shared? Consider how comfortable you would be to share personal information with a stranger.
Disclosure can also be a challenge for businesses. Their employees need to be trained to respond with understanding and empathy. A system for recording information is required so that customers only need to tell the company once, but how does this comply with data protection? How do they ensure the information remains confidential and compliant with GDPR?
The sunflower lanyard removes these concerns and complications. Those with a hidden disability choose when they wear it. In some situations, they may feel confident, so it can stay in their bag or pocket, but it is at hand when needed.
Join the Sunflower Scheme
The concept of the sunflower lanyard developed when staff at Gatwick airport wanted a means of identifying when passengers have a non-obvious disability. Launched in 2016, it was soon adopted by airports across the world. Rail companies, supermarkets, NHS trusts and cinemas are some of the many organisations to adopt the Sunflower Scheme.
Your business can become a member of the Sunflower Scheme by registering online. Members receive advice on implementation and can also access training videos to build employee awareness.
I think there is scope for the scheme to extend to a sunflower icon that could show on digital records. This symbol could be accompanied by relevant information so that customer service staff use the appropriate form of communication or are prepared to allow more time for the call. What are your thoughts; would this be helpful to you or your organisation?