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Sunflower lanyards offer those with hidden disabilities a little extra help

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT
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FERGUS FALLS, M.N. (Valley News Live) - Sunflowers are helping bridge a gap among several communities across the country in an effort to bring awareness to those who may need additional help or just a little extra time.

Several airports including Lincoln, Neb. and Milwaukee, Wis., have recently launched the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program where staff hand out bright green, sunflower lanyards to passengers upon request as a way to discreetly signal that person may need some extra support down the line.

Anna Molter says she wishes she would have known about the lanyards years ago.

Molter has been dealing with genetic hearing loss for over two decades now, but because it didn’t develop until late in her teens, she doesn’t have a speech impairment that is usually a tell-tale sign to others.

“Lots of people just don’t even know unless I speak up and advocate for myself,” she said.

Molter says she relies heavily on lip reading and even made her own pin several years ago that says, ‘Please face me. I read lips,’ as a signal to others especially when wearing masks and traveling alone.

“Whenever they make announcements on the PA system and I’m by myself, I’m like, ‘I have no idea what they said. I really hope someone comes up and shares that information with me,’” Molter said.

But now sunflower lanyards, which originated in the UK in 2016, are working to establish a more universal signal for all invisible disabilities whether you’re traveling or just at the grocery store.

“We all want compassion, we all want grace and patience and so having that way to be a discreet indicator without having every place you go having to say, ‘This is my personal situation.’ Or, ‘This is how I need extra assistance,’” she said.

Some of the invisible conditions could be autism, epilepsy, vision or hearing loss, post-traumatic stress, dementia, depression, asthma, chronic pain, anxiety disorders, brain injuries as well as several other conditions.

Molter says both the recognition and awareness the sunflower gives the public will go a long way in making everything run that much smoother, as well as bring some much needed benevolence to the world.

“I’m hopeful that when someone out in the public sees another individual with a lanyard on, they would feel comfortable enough to approach them and say, ‘How can I help you?’” Molter said.

Molter says she hasn’t ordered her lanyard yet, as she’s gathering a group order among her friends and family members. However, she says she plans to snag some soon.

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