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Family dynamics

11th Mar 2020

Irish Ferries has introduced a Sunflower Scheme that will make travelling with kids who have sensory needs easier


Did you know what the Sunflower Symbol means?

We didn’t until today – and it’s an initiative that we applaud.

The scheme offers special lanyards to people who have hidden disabilities such as autism, chronic pain, dementia and anxiety as well as speech, vision or hearing impairments.

Irish Ferries has announced that it will be introducing the Sunflower Scheme for passengers across its fleet. It is the first travel operator in Ireland to do so.

The lanyard will signify to Irish Ferries staff that a person may need special or additional care. The staff have undergone special training to help them to understand and respond to the needs of those with hidden disabilities in an appropriate manner.

Michelle O’Connor and son Ben from Dublin pictured with the staff of the WB Yeats

It’s a subtle and dignified way to get the message across, and one that we think will be particularly helpful for parents of children who have autism or sensory issues. Travelling is, after all, a stressful experience at the best of times and can be very overwhelming for children, particularly those with autism.

Anyone who needs a lanyard – which are green with a cheery sunflower print – can have one sent to their home in advance of travel or collect them at the port before departure.

Ten-year-old Ben O’Connor, pictured with W.B. Yeats Master Girts Fisers-Blumbergs

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme was first set up in Gatwick airport in 2016 and is now widely used across airports and rail services across the UK, as well as by the NHS. It’s also used at leisure facilities and by businesses including Marks & Spencer and Argos.

The sunflower was chosen as the scheme’s icon as it is bright and easy to see and because it has connotations of happiness, positivity and strength.

You can find out more about the scheme on the Irish Ferries and Hidden Disabilities websites.