You may or may not have seen the sunflower lanyards that are being used around UK airports and on UK Airlines. This was introduced by Birmingham Airport.

These lanyards simply identify that customers have a hidden disability. Therefore staff can take the initiative and approach them to ask if help is needed. It works because it means customers who may not usually be recognised as having a need are noticed more easily and offered assistance in a way that suits them.

When it comes to airports, the lanyard can be so helpful, particularly when it comes to areas such as security. Security staff wouldn’t know if a customer has a hidden disability, and this lanyard makes them aware that they may need to take some extra time or extra care in terms of communication.

Since being launched, the lanyard scheme is now at several airports and is also being used by some airlines.

More recently, retailers have understood that this may be a useful initiative in-stores. Sainsbury’s were the first supermarket to launch this and will shortly be followed by Marks and Spencer’s in a bid to be the most accessible retailer.

The schemes are an interesting way of supporting customers with hidden disabilities. The only thing lacking is the promotion of this initiative to the particular communities it could benefit.

The deaf community is one of the groups which are classified as having a hidden disability. And, although schemes such as this appropriately announce their intentions corporately, the information very rarely makes it down to the grassroots communities for whom this is for.

Through my work, I’ve had many conversations with deaf people. And most of them have never seen a Sunflower Lanyard before and would not consider that this is for them – and therefore one of the largest groups of customers with hidden disabilities are not gaining access to this.

So, although it’s fantastic that these Innovations are happening – don’t forget to tell your customers!