Have you seen the sunflower lanyards that people wear? In this guest blog, Emma explains why she and others in the hidden disability community feel that they are being misused by some people…..
Do you see people misuse facilities for the disabled every day? Well, today I am here to tell you about an example of this and these are sunflower lanyards.
So how did it all start? In 2016, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower was designed and launched when London Gatwick Airport asked “How can we identify that one of our passengers may have a non-obvious disability?”. Hidden disabilities created a simple sunflower design on a green background for a lanyard – a subtle but visible sign to enable airport staff to identify that the wearer (or someone with them) may require some extra help, time, or assistance when moving through the airport. You may not think about it but those green sunflower lanyards you see were once a discreet way to indicate to people around the wearer including staff, colleagues and health professionals that they need additional support, help or a little more time. However, with the rise of mask wearing, the sunflower lanyard has become synonymous with anti-maskers and entitled people. This problem could be a confusion as the company that produces sunflower lanyards also produces mask exemption cards that attach to the end of the lanyard, but I don’t think it is. The lanyards are 75p plus postage and there is no qualifying list to being able to access a lanyard as it does not exclude people who have yet to be diagnosed and whose daily life is made more challenging by their hidden disabilities. This allows dishonest people to buy a lanyard and use it as an excuse to not wear a mask. Statistics show that 1 in 5 people are disabled and 80% of them have a non-obvious disability. That’s 10 million in the UK. A survey conducted by Hidden Disabilities suggests that 68% of lanyard wearers were unable to wear a face covering and 15% could only wear one occasionally.
You may be wondering why I care about this. The reason I care about this is that I have ADHD and I have a sunflower lanyard to inform others around me that I may need some help or some more time and not as a sign that I can’t wear a mask. I also want to be an active part in my community by holding a club in my own cafe for children with special needs to hang out and let the parents have time out for themselves. So when I heard that these lanyards were being exploited I was worried about the impact this would have on the hidden disability community and the covid cases which was a source of anxiety for most of the hidden disability community.
Many people who qualify for the lanyards are now choosing to not wear them in case they are attacked, which has happened to many people who wear a lanyard. The people of Reddit have said that “This is nothing new, able-bodied people love to exploit disability aids for fun, whilst we’re the ones who deal with the backlash. Look at the fidget spinner trend that ended up with them being banned in schools despite many people with autism, ADHD, etc needing them to self regulate, stim or concentrate better.” Another Redditor said “It’s frustrating that now everyone is wearing something meant to make people aware of hidden disabilities.” This Redditor’s son is autistic and wears a mask. He won’t wear his lanyard because he doesn’t want to be associated with anti-maskers. This is majorly damaging to the community and will have a negative impact on the type of aid that people with hidden disabilities receive. Some have called for an application process but this does not allow people who have yet to be diagnosed or people who have a condition hard to diagnose to access the aid they need.
Jessica Hatchett, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Access Officer, said “Any fraudulent use of the Sunflower reduces its effectiveness for those who genuinely need it, as not all disabilities are obvious. She further went on to say “I would like to remind those who need the lanyard to get it from a legitimate source, and not pay higher prices for copies that promote incorrect use. So what are Hidden Disabilities doing about this? On their website, they state “Our legal representatives, Howes Percival LLP, have issued legal letters to both Amazon and eBay instructing them of the infringement of our trademarks and asking for their support in removing these items from the sale. They have also commenced legal proceedings against a number of UK sellers of counterfeit goods.”
So as you can see the sunflower lanyards are being misused and exploited by some people and it is damaging to the community. The sunflower lanyard has lost all meaning and become an excuse for anti-maskers. We need more awareness for this project as they are being attacked and accused of supporting anti-maskers when they are just trying to provide aid for people with hidden disabilities.
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