Sunflower Lanyards scheme – how to show your hidden disabilities in Coronavirus shopping chaos


This week Sainsburys and Tesco joined Iceland and Booths in reserving the first hour of trading for ‘elderly and vulnerable’ customers only in a bid to help everyone through the Coronavirus crisis. All other customers will be able to shop from one hour later than the published opening time with some stores offering extended opening times.

But how do you go about displaying your ‘vulnerability’ if you have a hidden disability? Do you need a Blue Badge or do you have to show staff your PIP letter? There’s certainly going to be some dirty looks from the over 70s when people with hidden disabilities join the queues for milk, pasta and of course toilet roll.

This is where the free Sunflower Lanyard for hidden disabilities scheme might come in useful. The scheme was started at Gatwick Airport a few years ago. Over 1000 people with hidden disabilities use passenger assistance at Gatwick every month. The Sunflower Lanyard scheme was designed to make sure travellers had an easier time at the airport.

Hidden disabilities can include people with dementia, autism, hearing loss, anxiety and fibromyalgia who may find walking, standing, and queuing difficult, or find the sounds, crowds and lights overwhelming. I have a chronic fatigue condition so know how this can feel. 

Staff have been trained to offer appropriate support when they see someone wearing the lanyard. The scheme was so popular that it was rolled out across all the UK airports, some rail companies and in October 2019 Sainsbury’s and Argos announced the nationwide rollout of sunflower lanyards in all stores, to help customers with hidden disabilities. The Sunflower Lanyard acts as a discreet sign for staff in the store that they may need to provide a customer with extra support such as finding items or giving more time at the checkout. Hopefully it might help you in the current shopping chaos.

You can collect a free Sunflower Lanyard from the assistance desk of any UK airport, or customer services at Sainsbury’s.


Published by


Person-Centred LGBTQ+ Counsellor and qualified Supervisor in Walthamstow, East London, E17