Author: Kimberley Giles


You’ve probably seen when you’re out and about people using sunflower lanyards, but do you know what they are for and what they aim to represent?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the use of the sunflower lanyard became increasingly more common but the scheme itself has been around for quite some time. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower discreetly reflects that the individual wearing it has a hidden disability, providing a subtle indication to those around them that they may need more time, additional support, or some form of assistance. The scheme has been endorsed by several major supermarkets, public transport companies, the NHS, the police, and a growing number of other businesses and venues.

Those who live with invisible disabilities such as mental illness, learning difficulties, hearing or visual impairments, for example, can find day-to-day life difficult but may struggle to ask for help or adjustments. For some individuals, whilst they may not actively need any extra assistance, they may wish for people around them to simply be aware of the fact that they may need extra time or more personal space.

As someone who lives with a hidden disability, I can find it incredibly difficult when I’m out and about, especially if I’m on my own. In my personal situation, I don’t usually require any specific form of additional help and support, however, I do like to make others around me know that I may need more time, I may need to quickly make an exit, or I may just need more space. My hidden disability also means I am unable to wear a face covering and I use the Hidden Sunflower scheme to let those around me know I am medically exempt.

It’s important to note that wearing a sunflower lanyard, or any other face-covering exemption card, is a personal choice and is not required by law. But for me, it allows me to feel that little bit safer knowing that I am less likely to avoid confrontation from others that would only exacerbate my anxiety. Many others use the sunflower lanyard in this way too. Unfortunately, I still receive judgemental looks from some people, and I’ve heard several people comment to those they are with that they disapprove of me not wearing a face mask. I ask on behalf of us with a hidden disability that if you do see someone who is not wearing a face covering and is using the sunflower lanyard that you kindly withhold any negative judgment.

There are lots of ways you can pick up your own lanyard, including for free from the campus iPoints. Next time you’re in the supermarket, ask at customer services too as they often have them. You can also purchase lanyards, exemption cards, and several other sunflower products from