San José International Airport eases travel for people with disabilities


Officials on Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) today introduces the Sunflower Lanyard program in partnership with the California State Council on Developmental Disability (SCDD).

The Sunflower Lanyard program allows airport staff to subtly identify travelers who need an extra level of customer service. By wearing a leash, travelers with invisible or less visible disabilities identify themselves as possible needs for extra help or service.

John Aitken, Director of Aviation at Mineta San José International Airport, notes, “We understand the challenges our customers face in the current travel environment and that having a disability can often exacerbate these challenges. The Sunflower Lanyard program is a perfect complement to our customer service approach, allowing our staff to meet customer needs in a way that is discreet and empowering to the traveler. ”

Any traveler who identifies himself as disabled or helps a person with a hidden disability can request and carry a leash. The program is voluntary and no further verification is required. Sunflower lines are provided free of charge.

Through the program, the staff at SJC have been thoroughly trained to help travelers wearing a sunflower string. Training helps staff identify travelers carrying the cord who need additional attention and / or support at the airport, such as:

  • More time to prepare for check-in, security checkpoints and boarding
  • An escort to the gate or other areas as needed
  • Help find a quieter area at the airport (for travelers with sensory needs)
  • Clearer, more detailed instructions and / or explanations about the airport’s processes and requirements
  • Assistance with reading signs
  • Patience and understanding when travelers adapt to airport processes

According to California SCDD training, an “invisible disability” (or less visible disability) refers to a spectrum of disabilities that are not immediately visible to others. These include, but are not limited to, things like visual impairment, hearing loss, autism, anxiety disorders, dementia, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, and mobility problems.

Travelers can get a sunflower cord at check-in counters for airlines, airport information booths when manned or by arranging in advance at. [email protected].

The Sunflower Lanyard program started at London’s Gatwick Airport in 2016 with users wearing colorful green lanyards decorated with sunflowers. The program has since been adopted by public venues across the UK as well as airports around the world. About 10% of Americans have a condition that can be considered an invisible disability.

Carrying a leash does NOT guarantee fast tracking through security, nor does it guarantee any preferential treatment.

Passengers are still required to arrange special assistance with their respective airlines.

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