The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard scheme helping people with hidden disabilities

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard scheme is an initiative designed to act as a discreet sign that somebody has a hidden disability and requires additional assistance while out in public. Supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury’s have started using the lanyards.

About the Hidden Disability Sunflower lanyard scheme

The scheme was developed by designers, Tabbers Limited, alongside the OCS Group UK, who provide support services to UK airports. It was first launched in 2016 at Gatwick Airport, in which more than 10,000 lanyards have been collected to date.

Now in 2019, it is being successfully introduced to several major UK airports, supermarkets, railway stations and sports venues.

Sainsbury’s has been the first supermarket to trial the scheme with 40 stores. Tesco is also trialling the scheme in 15 Hertfordshire stores.

In addition, they are beginning to be recognised at international airports, cinemas, shopping centres and several NHS Trusts.

Do you need a face mask exemption card? Buy one NOW on the Disability Horizons Shop.

Face mask exemption card

You can also buy our social distancing lanyard and card to help you stay safe.

Which hidden disabilities eligible for a sunflower lanyard?

The types of hidden disabilities that are eligible for a sunflower lanyard include:

  • autism and Asperger’s
  • learning disabilities 
  • dementia
  • mobility problems (e.g arthritis, MS, ME, chronic illness)
  • visual or hearing impairments
  • mental health issues.

How does the sunflower lanyard work for people with hidden disabilities?

If you’re wearing a lanyard, staff can offer you help but won’t know what your individual disability and needs are. Just let them know what they can do.

The support that can be provided with a lanyard includes:

  • more time at the checkout
  • packing your bags
  • speaking face-to-face to allow lip reading
  • using clear and easy-to-understand language
  • help with hard-to-reach products
  • making others aware a person may be struggling or have behavioural issues.

Head to the Disability Horizons Shop to buy Covid essentials, including lip-reading face masks, face mask inserts to make breathing easier and extra-thick plastic aprons.

One images showing three products for the Disability Horizons Shop - a lip-reading face mask, face mask breathing insert to make it easier to breath and extra thick plastic apron

Experiences of people with hidden disabilities using the lanyard

The lanyards have been available in supermarkets since February 2019 with many disabled people already benefiting from the scheme. One mother, Nikki Pearson, praised the scheme for supporting her autistic son, Harvey, while shopping.

In a Facebook post, she said: “I love that it is not labelling anyone but it just makes people more aware that it may be why that person is struggling.”

She also explained how it helps her son when he might behave in a certain way while shopping. For example, screaming or kicking. “He isn’t a naughty child he is just processing and seeing/hearing things we have no idea are even happening.”

A customer from Sainsbury’s, who is partially sighted and has early-onset dementia, commented on the mum’s post: “I did feel a bit stupid having to put on the lanyard and I told my husband I didn’t want to wear it, but he encouraged me to.

I went to the petrol station first before going to the supermarket which I would never normally do on my own, but I found the lanyard gave me confidence as I knew people would help me.”

Another person commented: “I walked in my local Sainsbury’s and got one for my son, no questions asked and they even asked me how many I needed.”


How to get a sunflower lanyard for people with hidden disabilities

Simply pick one up in a participating store, airport, station or venue at a customer service desk or at checkout. The lanyards are free, available to keep and you don’t need to provide proof of your disability.

Alternatively, you can also purchase one at The Hidden Disabilities Store for 66p plus postage.

Have you got a hidden disability and tried out using a sunflower lanyard when out in public? Share your experiences in the comments box or on Facebook and Twitter.

By Emma Purcell

More on Disability Horizons…

Emma Purcell

Editor & Writer at Disability Horizons. Blogger at Rock For Disability. Loves live music, comedy, acting, chocolate and is a Harry Potter fanatic.


  1. I think this is an awful idea, my son is autistic and when I Entered Tesco yesterday with my son A woman said please could I wear this Band. so I put it on and I felt totally labeled like I was walking around with a sign on my back saying I am disabled. I complained to a member of staff and she said we had to wear it so we don’t get asked why we are walking together in the store, because of social distancing with the c virus. and I was told to go to customer service with my complaint. so I did and I told her that this is totally wrong that we have to put a sign on to let every one know my son is disabled, I felt humiliated and singled out. and because of the way I felt I was not even going to let my son wear it even though he is unaware of what the band is saying about us. but that is what this band is praying on the vulnerable who are unaware. People can be cruel and when I wore the band I also noticed uncomfortable reactions from people around me. The lady on customer services finally said in the end I don’t have to wear it. but it has put me off going to Tesco shopping again.

    1. I think there is nothing wrong with the staff member asking your son to wear the lanyard , I would rather my son who has severe autism wear one than go up to someone who takes offence because of covid and starts telling him off. Plus I am not ashamed of my son and his disability.

      1. It really should not have to be. How is it that people have changed so much? If you are not wearing a mask it should be accepted that there is a good reason. Even though some may not physically appear to be disabled, there are a huge number of psychological reasons why people cannot be confronted with reduced oxygen levels. It most certainly is not for other people to judge, and it used to be only those people with mental deficiencies who ran around telling tales on others.

  2. So let me get this straight. Not all disabilities are visible (obviously), but not all invisible disabilities deserve this lanyard? I have three severe mental disorders and get disability and enhanced PIP but I don’t deserve this lanyard? Thank you for contributing to more discrimantion.

    1. Hi Rebekah

      Thank you for flagging this to us. When this article was published last year, the list reflected what information was available at the time. However, having double-checked with the Sunflower Scheme, we have now added mental health as an example of a hidden disability.

      We’re keen to create more content around hidden disabilities and mental health, so if you would like to write about your experiences, please email


  3. i am having real difficulty obtaining lanyards and hidden disability id badges for three children any idea who currently has them in stock?

      1. The website isn’t working and hasn’t been for days. We are desperately trying to get a Lanyard and card for my grandson as her is autistic also ADHD, dyspraxia, congenital heart disease with a pacemaker and FASD.

        kind regards Debbie

      2. I have tried ordering the card and land yard but it doesn’t show my postcode is there any way I can order by phone

  4. The hidden disabilities card is being widely advertised and talked about on all the anti-masker groups with people posting photos of themselves wearing the card and lanyard but no mask on flights etc. I think it’s morally reprehensible for people to be pretending to have disabilities just so that they don’t have to follow health and safety guidelines. They’re also getting the cards for free so you’re not even getting any donations from them. Is there anything you can do to stop this and ensure that only those deserving the cards can have them?

    1. Hi Aisling

      Thank you for flagging this. Unfortunately, we are aware of this practice, but as people can self-certify, there is nothing we can do.

      However, if someone isn’t genuinely exempt and doesn’t have a legitimate reason, they are open to being fined.

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