Travelling With An Invisible Disability

April 25, 2019.  A while ago, a woman with a cochlear implant who was travelling alone booked a flight and informed the airline that she had hearing loss.  When she arrived at the airport, she was placed in a wheelchair.  She protested, saying “I’m able bodied and can walk perfectly.  Why do I have to be in a wheelchair?”  The reply?  “Madam, you informed us you have a disability.  We realize you can walk, but the wheelchair is the only way the airline staff will know this. Please sit in the chair.”  She did, an attendant wheeled her to the gate and then onto the plane, and she arrived safely at her destination.

The problem, as you may imagine, is that she had an invisible disability.  The wheelchair didn’t help her to hear and anyone seeing her would assume she had a physical disability.  Heathrow Airport in England has taken steps to recognize the importance of recognizing invisible or hidden disabilities while travelling in the airport.  The solution?  A sunflower lanyard.  A spokesperson explained that “The sunflower lanyard is a way for customers to indicate to staff across the airport that they may need additional care and support.  The optional service is intended for customers with hidden disabilities such as hearing loss, autism or dementia.”  (See


The sunflower lanyard is already available at several airports throughout the United Kingdom, making for a consistent approach.  So, what do you have to do?  It couldn’t be simpler.  Contact the airport if you will be travelling through Heathrow and they will mail you a lanyard ….. anywhere in the world.  So, Islanders, if you are planning a trip and will be going through Heathrow, and you have hearing loss, contact the airport by email at and provide the following information:

  • Full name (including surnames)
  • Departing / Connecting or Arriving terminal
  • Flight number(s)
  • Postal address where your lanyard should be sent to
  • Number of lanyards required

The lanyard is free of charge and you can keep it to use at any participating airport.  (See  As the airport authority explains, “Wearing a sunflower lanyard at Heathrow enables our colleagues to recognise that you have a hidden disability without you needing to declare it. This allows you to travel independently through the airport whilst knowing that if you need any additional support during your journey, any of our colleagues will be able to support.” Now, wouldn’t such a lanyard be a great idea for our Charlottetown Airport Authority to adopt?  If you like this idea, let us know.  You can comment on the blog, send an email to or a tweet to @HearPEI.

Petition Update

In the last blog posting the petition launched to request equal treatment for all adult Islanders with regard to hearing aid subsidies was discussed.  (See Petition Launched To Request Equal Treatment For Adult Islanders Re Access To Hearing Aid Subsidies) Briefly, our petition requests the following: Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar programResults for the first week of the petition are encouraging, and will be discussed in a separate posting. The results are updated on Twitter as they come in, and you can follow us @HearPEI.  As of April 25, 2019, here is the progress.

Petition Apr 25 2019 pm

our-goal-blogWe all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg


Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  Phase II & Friends Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm  Fundraiser for the church.  Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.

Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm.  The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time.  Can’t attend?  You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at:

3 thoughts on “Travelling With An Invisible Disability

  1. I love this idea with the lanyard. I`m travelling solo for the first time this summer since I`ve lost my hearing and to tell you I wasn`t nervous, would be a lie!! It would be nice to see this in all airports across the world for those affected by disabilities.


    • Lynda, we are with you. The lanyard is a marvellous idea and we hope that Charlottetown Airport Authority will adopt it. In the meantime, you may wish to check if the airports you are travelling through this summer have hearing loops. If so, you can activate the telecoil in your hearing aid or cochlear implant. Daria


  2. Pingback: Accessibility Helps Everyone | The Aural Report

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