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Copenhagen Airport’s new sunflower lanyards will help travellers with hidden disabilities

Copenhagen Airport has adopted a sunflower lanyard program, which originated in the UK, to ensure that passengers with hidden disabilities get special assistance to help them manage the stress of travel.

“Airport procedures such as check-ins, security checks and boarding the aircraft can be a stressful experience for all travellers. For people with hidden disabilities, such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease, brain damage, ADHD, or dyslexia, making their way through an airport can cause additional strain,” the airport explains in its announcement.

The green lanyard with sunflowers will enable Copenhagen Airport employees to recognise that the wearers may require extra time or patience.

The airport is training employees to recognize passengers’ needs through instructional videos, so they are better equipped to handle a diverse range of passenger needs. 

“The sunflower lanyard ensures that people with hidden disabilities and diagnoses do not have to explain or justify their needs in situations involving anxiety, stress, confusion or a need for help,” says explains Service Excellence Director at Copenhagen Airport, Stine Marsal. “Through training videos, our employees across the many companies at the airport have gained a basic knowledge of what they should and should not do when they encounter someone with a hidden disability.”

Wearing the sunflower lanyard is optional, but passengers who need them can obtain them free of charge at the information desk and at most check-in counters at the airport.  

Stine Marsal points out that the sunflower lanyard does not confer any special benefits other than acting as signal to airport employees that the wearer is someone who may require extra consideration, time, patience or help. However, passengers wearing the sunflower lanyard can follow a special lane at the security checkpoint by contacting the employee at the entrance.  

Encouraging more to introduce the sunflower lanyard 

The sunflower lanyard is new to Denmark, but it is already being used in many places throughout the world. In England, where the idea originated, there has been great success using it in airports, supermarkets and similar places.  

The Disabled Peoples’ Organizations Denmark is promoting the use of the sunflower lanyard.  

“It can help calm the anxieties of travellers with hidden disabilities and help them successfully navigate what is often a hectic airport,” says Thorkild Olesen, Chairman of Disabled Peoples’ Organizations Denmark. “I hope that the initiative will be widespread in many places here in Denmark, such as amusement parks, department stores or other forms of public transport.”

Copenhagen Airport also hopes that, following their example, other companies will view the sunflower lanyard as an opportunity to assist a large customer group in a concrete and tangible way.  

Training for approximately 25,000 people

The airport invested major resources to train the approximately 25,000 people distributed across the 1,250 companies that operate in the airport on a daily basis. But the training program has proven beneficial. Copenhagen Airport has received very positive feedback from some of the passengers who have made their way through the airport wearing the sunflower lanyard, and also from employees and partner companies.

“We have also noted that it has had an incredibly positive effect internally between colleagues,” Stine Marsal says. “People with hidden disabilities and diagnoses are not just our customers. They are also ourselves. They are our families and those closest to us. The sunflower lanyard initiative has opened up a dialogue between colleagues about our own challenges with children who have diagnoses, our own challenges, parents with dementia, etc. so the initiative has also helped us open up to each other. It has all been worth it, and we hope that we can help inspire others to introduce the sunflower lanyard so we can help people with hidden disabilities to be seen and understood.”  

If companies would like to learn more about Copenhagen Airport’s experiences with the sunflower lanyard, they are very welcome to contact Stine Marsal, who is also happy to share the instructional materials developed by the airport.   

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