Hidden disabilities assistance scheme grows at Norwich Airport

Sunflower lanyards signal discreet support for passengers with hidden disabilities

Up to 100 passengers a month are now using a special assistance scheme at Norwich Airport.

The sunflower lanyards are a discreet signal to staff that wearers have hidden disabilities or conditions and may require additional support.

Passengers wearing them indicate to the airport team that they may require help with check-in and security, being talked through what to expect as they travel through the airport and potential assistance with reading signs and departure boards.

Norwich Airport special assistance lead Aaron Frost said: “Some disabilities are not immediately obvious and the sunflower lanyards are a great way of bringing passengers who need a little extra assistance to our attention.

“We introduced the voluntary scheme 18 months ago, replacing wristbands, and we are now assisting up to 100 passengers a month as word spreads.

“Invisible disabilities can include visual or auditory impairments, chronic medical problems and psychological challenges such as severe anxiety, autism and obsessive compulsive disorder, to name but a few.

“Nervous flyers may wish to wear a lanyard as well, so they can be given reassurance.

“Airports by their nature are loud, bright, noisy and full of other sensory inputs which may not trouble some of us but can be incredibly challenging, frightening and overwhelming to others.

“Our role is to ensure that the airport experience is as positive as possible for sunflower lanyard wearers, including visitors.”

Aaron added: “We are also able to facilitate a ‘trial run’ at the airport before their chosen flight, which has already proven to be successful.”

Norwich Airport recently retained the highest possible rating for disability access, having been judged ‘very good’ in an independent annual survey, and one of only two UK airports to achieve the accolade four years running.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority published its fourth annual report on the disability access of the UK’s largest airports, with Norwich among 14 airports rated as ‘very good’.

To achieve a ‘very good’ classification, airports must provide high quality support on the day of travel as well as keeping in regular contact and consultation with its users.

Norwich Airport provides assistance to more than 7,000 passengers a year, an increase of 58% in four years.

It works closely with local groups including Age UK Norwich, Assist Trust, Autism Anglia and Home Instead Senior Care to enhance the experience of people with reduced mobility.

The sunflower lanyard scheme is being adopted by various major airports, railways, supermarkets and visitor attractions.

Require a sunflower lanyard, or have a family member or friend who may need one? Please go to our airport assistance desk or order in advance – we’ll be more than happy to help.