The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Program at Orlando International Airport (MCO) allows travelers to self-identify that they may require additional support while passing through the airport.
Photos courtesy of Orlando International Airport
Designed to discreetly identify that the wearer (or a travel companion) has a hidden disability and might require additional assistance, the Sunflower Lanyard Program was first introduced in 2016 at London’s Gatwick Airport. Since then, other airports across the U.K. have adopted the sunflower lanyard and based on that success, other organizations in the U.K. have also adopted them, including supermarkets, railway stations, museums, and sports venues.
How does the MCO Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Program work?
Sunflower Lanyards can be picked up from 6 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. daily in MCO’s Main Terminal, Level 3, at the information centers across from the security checkpoints.
For travelers who participate, wearing a sunflower lanyard allows them to self-identify that they or someone in their party has a hidden disability to MCO staff who are trained to recognize the lanyards and understand that additional help may be needed. However, wearing a lanyard does not guarantee fast-tracking through security or any preferential treatment. Passengers are still required to arrange special assistance with their airlines and TSA Cares.
“Our 13-year-old son has hidden disabilities,” wrote Jade Keen on MCO’s Facebook page. “He had his sunflower lanyard on that goes everywhere with us, and it was instantly recognized by the amazing staff at MCO without any questions who sent us to the right line for immigration and fully understood that he couldn’t wear a mask.”
The Sunflowers Lanyard Program is voluntary, and passengers are not required to participate. In addition, participants may choose to disclose their disability on the card but do not have to. They may also note a contact name and phone number, which would be helpful if they’re separated from their party.
Additional U.S. airports are beginning to recognize the Sunflower Lanyard, but MCO notes there’s no guarantee the lanyard will be recognized in other airports and recommends contacting all airports you plan to travel through directly.
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