Hi! I'm Alex, a year-4 Management & Modern Languages student (Spanish pathway). It’s Disability History Month, so I want to share my personal experience with wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard.
I have dyspraxia, a developmental disorder that affects movement and coordination. This manifests in various ways. I can’t throw a ball to save my life and I struggle to stand for long periods of time. It often takes me longer to process information and complete tasks than most other people. This can make living in the bustling metropolis of London extremely challenging.
I was diagnosed at the age of 19, which is pretty late as most people get diagnosed when they’re a child. It took time for me to accept my identity as a disabled person. I often didn’t feel disabled enough because I had coped well enough with the symptoms, despite the severe anxiety it caused me. The existence of the Sunflower lanyard scheme has played a crucial role in helping me feel more comfortable in my identity. The lanyard challenges the preconception that disabilities are always visible and offers a discreet way for people with hidden disabilities to communicate our needs. It’s also very cute and easy to match with my impeccable style!
My Sunflower lanyard Journey
I started wearing the Sunflower lanyard regularly, after visiting London attractions with my best friend, Artemis, who uses a wheelchair. I found the accommodations provided to Artemis helped me a lot too and made my experience more enjoyable. When I started to wear the lanyard, I felt validated and reassured when seeking assistance.
Every day I get the bus to university wearing the Sunflower lanyard, along with a 'please offer me a seat' badge. Does this mean people give up their seat for me? No – however, it makes me feel validated to use priority seating, meant for disabled individuals.
The Sunflower lanyard is recognised internationally so you can also use it when travelling abroad. I recently visited a friend in Paris and we went to the Musée D’Orsay. When we got there the line went round the block and I was concerned that standing there for too long would tire me out and cause anxiety. We spoke to the security at the front and they let us go through a fast-track lane for people with disabilities which meant that I was able to enjoy experiencing the museum without being overwhelmed by waiting for ages to get in.
A huge reason as to why I wear the Sunflower lanyard is for the support I receive from other people with hidden disabilities. I recently visited a pop up café in Shoreditch where the queue was about 2 hours long. A fellow lanyard wearer also waiting to enter saw my Sunflower lanyard and told me that I could tell the people working there that I was disabled and ask to return at a set time so that I could sit down and wait somewhere else. I felt really touched by someone going out of their way to make sure I got the help I needed.
The Sunflower lanyard is more than just an accessory. It's a symbol of empowerment, inclusivity and support for individuals with hidden disabilities like me. King’s has recently joined the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard scheme, which is an incredible step towards a more inclusive and accommodating university. Training has also been provided to staff about the significance of this scheme. I’m optimistic that students and staff will feel more supported in the classroom and around campus.
If you also identify as having a disability, you can pick up a Sunflower lanyard on campus. And if not, next time you see someone rocking the Sunflower lanyard be mindful of their needs. Offering a seat on public transport, being patient and asking if they would like any help can make a huge difference in someone's day.