The project the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower was launched at Gatwick Airport in the United Kingdom in 2016. At that time the objective of the personnel was to learn recognizing the passengers, who have disabilities that are not evident. A hidden disability has no physical characteristics and may encompass difficulties in learning, speech, vision or hearing impairments, also functional restrictions or other chronic diseases, which have significant influence upon the everyday life. According to the data provided by the researchers, 74 percent of people who have such disabilities do not use any aids, for example, wheelchairs or etc., which would enable the people to perceive their actual health condition. Therefore, a subtle, but visible international symbol of a sunflower was created for this purpose, it helps to identify that a person wearing this flower may be in need for additional assistance.
Soon more companies and organizations in the United Kingdom joined this project, such as retail networks Tesco, Marks & Spencer and others, and currently other countries have expressed their solidarity as well. Now the symbol of sunflower is already identified at the biggest airports of the world as well: in Canada, Australia, USA and other countries. Lithuanian Airports are the first in the Baltic States, which expressed willingness to join the initiative.
According to Rasa Petraitienė, Head of Passenger Experience Management Division, the national air gates are proud to take over the good practice.
“Lithuanian Airports always take care of and expand the package of services offered to passengers with special needs: we have developed a more convenient arrival at the airport, the passengers are accompanied, assisted in moving, provided the necessary equipment or their needs are met in other suitable ways. It is important for us to ensure safe and smooth travelling experience to everybody; thus, we are glad that from now on it shall be easier to achieve this goal”, says R. Petraitienė.
According to her project the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower provides tools enabling to take care of the passengers on the international scale, therefore, passengers arriving from another country airport which belongs to this initiative the passengers wearing a symbol of sunflower shall receive the necessary additional attention.
“When arriving at of one of the three Lithuanian airports, the passengers with hidden disability may ask for a special accessory with a sunflower symbol at the check-in desks. Our employees and partners have been trained and acquainted with the special needs so they are always considerate, therefore, they can allocate more attention and time in order to ensure positive experience of these passengers at the airports”, explains R. Petraitienė.