Lincoln Airport rolls out program for those with hidden disabilities

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Project aims to make these people more visible so they can more easily get the help they might need.
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 9:12 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 7, 2022 at 10:18 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A new option at the Lincoln Airport aims to make it easier for those with hidden disabilities to get to their flight, with the help of a flower.

The program is known as the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Project. The goal is to make these people, who can often feel overwhelmed at an airport, more visible so they can more easily get the help they might need.

“It was a program created actually in the UK by an airport there,” said Rachel Barth with the Lincoln Airport Authority. “It just caught popularity and as people started understanding more and more about the program, they started to expand to the United States.”

Travelers need to wear one of the green sunflower lanyards, pins or wristbands, which can be found at Guest Services or the United Check-in area, to be identified by airport staff in case they need to provide some assistance. They are free of charge and there’s no paperwork to fill out.

Hidden disabilities can mean things like autism, PTSD, hearing or vision problems, dementia, and more.

“Help with understanding things, maybe being physically shown where the bathrooms are or maybe help going up the escalators,” Barth said. “You might just have to explain things a couple of different times, there are variations of understanding, and again, it’s just that recognizable piece that they can decide if they want to wear or not.”

Barth said bringing the program is just the first step. The airport is already ADA compliant, but part as part of an ongoing expansion it plans to take more people with disabilities into account when it comes to design work.

“I’m also working with the deaf and hard-of-hearing folks here in Lincoln,” Barth said. “They’re coming here and giving us suggestions on things we can do to improve that experience with our new terminal and new design.”

In getting ready to roll everything out, airport employees have watched instructional videos and are now on the lookout for sunflowers.

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