The Sunflower: The Symbol of Hidden Disabilities

sunflower with text The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme

Information on the sunflower scheme for hidden disabilities, and related events and initiatives at Kent and beyond

The hidden disabilities sunflower lanyard is a discreet way for people with hidden disabilities to show that they need extra support, help or a little more time. Since its launch in 2016, the scheme has been adopted by major airports and venues including supermarkets, railway and coach stations, leisure facilities, the NHS, a number of police, fire and ambulance services, and an increasing number of small and large businesses and organisations. Over one million lanyards have now been provided to the general public.

A hidden disability is a disability that may not be immediately obvious due to the absence of outward physical signs. This includes physical and mental impairments such as:

  • autism
  • chronic pain
  • dementia
  • sight and hearing loss
  • anxiety
  • irritable bowel syndrome, and lots more

One in five people in the UK have a disability, 80% of these people have a hidden disability. Disability History Month this year, which is from 18 November to 18 December 2021, has the theme of hidden impairments, to raise awareness and understanding.

Students and staff at Kent can collect Sunflower Lanyards from Student Support and Wellbeing centres in Canterbury and Medway. For more information about the Sunflower Scheme, please visit the Hidden Disabilities website or watch the below video:


Grow Your Own Sunflower

We are providing students in Canterbury and Medway with a pot, compost and sunflower seeds so that they can grown their own sunflower at home. Students are also welcome to decorate their pots.

A sunflower pot painting session for DHM is taking place on the 7th December, 12 noon – 2pm in The Hub in Medway where you can collect and paint your pot, compost and sunflower seeds.

The Fifth Trust

As part of this activity, the University of Kent have partnered with The Fifth Trust, a local Kent-based charity that supports adults with learning disabilities. Based in the Elham Valley, between Canterbury and Folkestone, the Fifth Trust have provided all the pots, compost and sunflower seeds for students to plant and grow their own sunflower plants. The Fifth Trust provides day care services for around 150 students on two sites that include a garden centre, vineyard, café and woodwork, crafts and pottery workshops. The Fifth Trust takes a person-centred approach, which means shaping their organisation and the way they work around each individual. Through enjoyable and productive work in the local community and in the Vineyard Garden Centre and Café, complemented by a broad range of creative, horticultural and academic activities, students develop essential life skills and the confidence to make their own choices, both large and small. The Fifth Trust Garden Centre and Café is open to the public all year long and students and staff members are welcome to visit and browse the range of goods and services offered.

Caring for Your Sunflower

Sunflowers are easy to grow and should be planted about 1 to 1.5 inches deep in compost that is not too cold and is damp. The pot should be left somewhere sunny like a windowsill. Make sure you give it a little water if it starts to feel dry. It will take about 8 weeks to grow your sunflower from seed. When the plant grows too big for the pot you can transfer it outside to somewhere warm and sunny. Don’t have anywhere? Don’t worry, you can always bring it up to the University of Kent Community Oasis Garden and plant it there.


Written by Becky Lamyman and Natalia Crisanti 03.12.21

Check out further articles on Accessibility, Disability and Inclusion and Support and Wellbeing.