When you travel with a hidden disability it can be frustrating, because people cannot see your needs. People can not see your disability because it's not visible and may not understand why things are difficult for you. Thankfully various programs can help a person with a hidden disability be able to travel. Recently I had the opportunity to use The Hidden Sunflower Program on a trip.
The Hidden Sunflower Program was first started in 2016 and can be found globally in over 200 airports, railways, bus stations, retailers, and offices. The purpose of the program is to show that a person wearing one has a hidden disability and may need extra support and help. The sunflower is also a way to subtly let others know that they have one. Many times people have a condition or disability that cannot be seen. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people live with a disability and 80% percent of these disabilities cannot be seen. Some examples of hidden disabilities are Autism, Learning disabilities, Chronic Pain, arthritis, and Auto-Immune Disorders.
I was given a Hidden Sunflower badge by my flight ambassador Joanne when she greeted me. People can either have the badge mailed to them or they can pick it up at participating facilities. You don't need to provide proof or documentation that you have a disability, to receive one. Sunflower badges are also provided to people free of charge.
I had people who helped me and others who did not help. When I went through TSA on the flight to my destination I was asked to take it off, when going through the detector. At my destination home, I was allowed to keep it on at TSA and they scanned it when I got out of the detector. Having the badge helped me be able to get preboarding on my flight and help with fastening my seat belt. Putting on seat belts is difficult for me with my lack of hand dexterity. The flight attendant was understanding and helped me to put the belt on. Other staff at the airport also offered me assistance when I was lost and looked confused.
The Hidden Sunflower program provides a subtle way for a person with a hidden disability to show they have one. When the staff member sees the badge they know to regard the person with compassion and to offer support. Wearing a Hidden Sunflower badge has helped to make my first trip solo a successful one. I hope to make many more trips, using my badge.