You may have noticed folks on campus wearing some interesting green lanyards with yellow sunflowers on them. These are not just a pretty accessory, they are a sign that someone has a hidden, invisible or non-visible disability. It’s all part of the Hidden Disability Sunflower Initiative, which the University has decided to formally partner with from 2023.
Certain disabilities, medical conditions, or chronic illnesses may not be readily apparent. This lack of immediate visibility can pose a challenge when it comes to comprehending and acknowledging the legitimate need for support in individuals with “invisible” conditions, as the disability remains hidden from view.
Hidden Disabilities Australia describes The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower as “a simple tool for you to voluntarily share that you have a disability or condition that may not be immediately apparent – and that you may need a helping hand, understanding, or more time in shops, at work, on transport, or in public spaces”.
Daniel Smith, Project Manager, Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP), at the University of Sydney explains why the University decided to join the Hidden Disability Sunflower Initiative:
“We’re proud to join the growing number of workplaces and institutions that support the Hidden Disability Sunflower Initiative in Australia. Supporting this initiative is part of our commitment to students, staff and visitors with disability outlined in our Disability Inclusion Action Plan. We want members of our community with hidden disabilities to feel supported during their time at the University – the Sunflower Lanyard is a great way for people with disability to identify themselves should they need a little extra help, understanding, or more time.”
Individuals with non-visible disabilities make an autonomous choice to wear the sunflower as a way to communicate with those around them that they may have access needs. Student disability advocates were central in securing the University’s commitment to the initiative.
Rosie Bogs, Faculty of Medicine and Health (FMH) student and the DIAP Implementation Committee’s Postgraduate Coursework Representative shares why they were keen to get the University on board with the initiative:
“Wearing a sunflower lanyard gives me the extra confidence to ask for help when I need it from people who recognise its significance. It’s important to me that they were recognised on campus because uni is a big part of my life – and so are my disabilities. It gives me a sense of community, too.”
So, what do you do if you encounter someone wearing a Sunflower Lanyard? It depends on context. If you’re simply passing someone in a public area or sitting next to them in a lecture hall, you probably don’t need to do anything. If you’re in a service role, teaching, or running an event, reach out to folks wearing the lanyard.
A respectful and effective approach when initiating a conversation with someone is to say, “Hello, I noticed you’re wearing a sunflower lanyard. Is there anything I can do to assist you today?”
Pay close attention and take cues from them regarding the support they require. Avoid inquiring about their specific disability or making assumptions about their abilities or needs. Instead, focus on offering solutions (if they want them) and being considerate. If the person has a caregiver present, address the individual with the disability directly.
Respect and kindness go a long way.
Where can I get a sunflower lanyard?
Sunflower lanyards are provided free of charge to the University community.
Students can get a lanyard through the University’s Inclusion and Disability Services team, the SRC, or SUPRA.
Staff can get a lanyard by emailing the Diversity and Inclusion team: