Green background with image of Sunflower. Text: I WEAR THE SUNFLOWER, TO SHOW THAT I HAVE AN INVISIBLE DISABILITY. Find out more at hiddendisabilitiesstore.com

We are delighted to announce that the University of Reading is joining a growing number of universities and other organisations in adopting the Sunflower scheme.

The hidden disabilities Sunflower scheme is becoming a global initiative aimed to support inclusive practices. Some people may wear a sunflower lanyard or badge to let others know that they have an invisible disability and may need additional support, time or adjustments. If appropriate, you may sensitively ask if there is anything that you can do to support the individual wearing a sunflower lanyard/badge. Not everybody who has an invisible disability requires additional support and not everybody who requires additional support will wear a sunflower lanyard or badge, so it is important to be sensitive and not make assumptions.

Initially introduced in 2016 in Gatwick Airport to support passengers with disabilities that were not visible, the scheme has grown in popularity and been introduced more widely in public transport, leisure facilities as well as retail. The sunflower lanyard initiative is also supported by leading UK charities including the Alzheimer’s Society, the National Autistic Society and Action on Hearing Loss.

A hidden disability is a disability that may not be immediately visible by looking at or talking to someone. It can include, for example, neurodiversity, a mental health condition as well as mobility, sensory loss or a physical disability that causes pain, fatigue or impacts on movement. This is not an exhaustive list and there are many other hidden disabilities.

The University of Reading is signing up to this optional scheme as part of our wider disability awareness campaign. We are adopting the term of ‘invisible disabilities’ rather than ‘hidden disabilities’ to reinforce that disability is not something we should be hiding and encourage further discussions around disability awareness and disclosure, in line with the approach taken at UCL.

Dr Allán Laville, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion commented: The sunflower lanyard scheme aims to raise awareness of invisible disabilities and is central to our ongoing work on improving disability awareness on campus. As someone who is neurodiverse, I’m thankful for the support of colleagues in furthering our journey in this important area, which will support future work in neurodiversity awareness. It is clear to me that we need to focus on the excellent skills that neurodiverse individuals bring to an organisation and the different innovative ways of working’. 

Dr Yota Dimitriadi, co-chair of the Staff Disability Network commented ‘The Network welcomes the adoption of the Sunflower Scheme that comes as a result of collective discussions with staff and students. We are extremely proud of this collaboration with our student body and grateful to colleagues for input and feedback. The Sunflower scheme is one of the examples of work that we, as university community, are putting together to support further disability awareness and inclusive work and study practices’.

Dr Ranjita Dhital Co-chair of the Staff Disability Network also commented: Many people with invisible disabilities never get to experience their full potential. We hope the Sunflower project will highlight that some of us with invisible disabilities need to work in specific ways that allow us to flourish. During this COVID-19 pandemic it’s more important than ever that we learn to empathise and understand the needs of those with invisible disabilities, especially if we want to create a working culture where we can all thrive rather than just survive.

Rachel Wates, RUSU Diversity Officer added: I am so happy that the Sunflower Scheme has been implemented on our campus. Considering there are over 10 million people in the UK who have an invisible disability, we are now offering a discrete way for those who wish to disclose it. I am especially happy with the assortment of products we have on offer – such as ID Cards, the lanyards and even small pin badges. I hope this will make a difference to those with hidden disabilities and this is 100% a step in the right direction. I hope more and more UK universities implement this scheme.

Konstantina Nouka (Disabled Students’ Officer 2020-2021): “Being part of the team that has ensured that the Sunflower Scheme will be implemented in our University, has been a great honour! As a student with a disability myself, I know that sometimes it is very frustrating to constantly been asked to explain that you have a disability and what your disability is. This scheme, enables me, and many more other students, to feel more comfortable in our day to day life, without having to constantly justify why we might need a bit of extra support while we are on campus trying to do things on our own!”

The scheme is optional, open to disabled students and staff and it does not influence other disability support that is currently available for students and staff. Wearing the lanyard or the badge is a personal choice and there is no requirement to provide evidence in order to be able and access the scheme.

Get your – sunflower lanyards, cards and badges from the:

  • Support Centres
  • Disability Advisory Service/Student Services 
  • HR reception in Whiteknights House
  • RUSU

from Thursday 12th November. Colleagues and students who want to obtain one can visit the Support Centres directly during opening hours but if you are unable to visit the campus to collect one, please email diversity@reading.ac.uk.

The Sunflower project is a collaboration between Student Services, the Staff Disability Network, the University’s Diversity and Inclusion team and RUSU.

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