Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

Plane travel can be challenging — not to understate it — for people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers, but a program, launched in England in 2016, is trying to ease the way for fliers worldwide.

(UPDATE: Since posting this story, I came across The ARC’s Wings for Autism®/Wings for All® program  — check it out!) 

In January, The Boost wrote about Westchester County Airport joining the international program, called Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, which provides free sunflower lanyard necklaces discreetly indicating who might need additional support. (These “hidden” disabilities can range from autism and PTSD to hearing loss.) Now, the Washington Post has a feature-length article about the program that’s worth a read.

The Post notes that the success of the program depends on the training offered by any given airport — training that’s often voluntary. This is one reason, it writes, that implementation and/or understanding of the project has been somewhat inconsistent.

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower has grown to include nearly 200 airports worldwide, including some 80 airports in North America. Below are the New York-area airports that offer the program, and information on where to get the lanyards. (Also, be sure to check ahead of time for airlines’ special assistance coordinators, especially when your loved one is traveling alone; all airlines have some kind of help available.)

Westchester County Airport

  • Lanyards can be gotten at ticket counters and security lines.

LaGuardia Airport

JFK International Airport

  • Passengers may request Sunflower lanyards at all Welcome Center locations in the Arrivals area of each terminal. Welcome Centers are staffed from 6 a.m. – 12 a.m. Terminal 4’s International Welcome Center is staffed 24 hours a day.

Newark Liberty International Airport

Albany International Airport

  • The lanyards are available at the information desk, ticket counters and Ambassador’s desk (post-security).

Syracuse Hancock International Airport

Philadelphia International Airport

  • Request a lanyard from any information counter throughout the airport.

In the U.S., according to Hidden Disabilities, the airports collectively have formed a Sunflower group that shares ideas on how to implement, train and distribute the Sunflower to travelers.

The U.S. also has three Sunflower-friendly cities: Mesa, AZ; Visalia, Calif.; and Vacaville, Calif. The Sunflower is distributed at visitor centers and is reportedly recognized at hotels, museums, attractions and parks.

Look here to see the other airports, in the U.S. and internationally, that take part in the program.

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