To understand the concept of a hidden disability, you first have to understand the definition of disability...
In the UK, disability is defined by the Equality Act 2010:
You are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. There are also recurring, progressive and fluctuating disabilities.
What does 'substantial' and 'long-term' mean?
‘Substantial’ is more than minor or trivial, e.g. it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed.
‘Long-term’ means 12 months or more, e.g. a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection.
You may commonly associate the word "disabled" with wheelchair users, but not all disabilities are visible.
For example, ADHD, Fibromyalgia, Dyslexia, Crohn's Disease, Arthritis and Chronic pain, to name but a few are all examples of Hidden Disabilities, so it's important not to assume.
During the pandemic, you may have come across the Sunflower Lanyard as an indicator of mask exemption, but this is not the original purpose of the Sunflower symbol...
The Sunflower Lanyard scheme was first launched in 2016 at Gatwick Airport to make the invisible visible.
This lanyard shows that the person wearing it may have a hidden disability and may need support from staff, extra time, an assistance dog, or other means. It does not exclusively - or even necessarily - mean mask exemption.
The Sunflower was chosen as it was a discreet sign which was still clearly visible from a distance, as well as being distinctive, joyful, and dynamic. Sunflowers suggest happiness, positivity, strength as well as growth and confidence. It is a universally known flower and also gender-neutral. It intends to allow everyone with hidden disabilities to choose to be visible when they need to be.
Can I wear sunflowers?
The lanyard scheme was set up to help vulnerable people, making sure they could receive support if needed. There is no qualifying list of hidden disabilities.
If you have a hidden disability and feel that you would benefit from wearing the sunflower, then please do.