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Top Tips - Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

Ecsite had the pleasure of sitting down with Rusianne Southby Mallia, Executive at Esplora Interactive Science Centre in Malta to discuss the ways she and her team have been making their science centre more accessible. Since 2019, they have been part of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative, which aims to encourage inclusivity, acceptance and understanding towards people with hidden disabilities in public spaces.


Read this definition by Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.


Individuals with a non-visible or ‘hidden’ disability can wear a yellow sunflower on a green background in the form of a lanyard, cap or pin which indicates to staff that they may require extra assistance.

Here are 10 Top Tips that Esplora have compiled since launching the initiative in their science centre:

  1. Empower Your Team: Train an in-house staff member to lead the way in supporting hidden disabilities, training other staff members and to be the contact person for managing crisis situations.
  2. Collaborate Locally: If you lack in-house expertise, connect with local charities and NGOs specialising in hidden disabilities to help educate your staff.
  3. Join the Initiative: Explore the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative for information, resources and enhanced training options.
  4. Unite as a Team: Work together to plan and implement the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative effectively. Make sure the whole team knows about the initiative and can offer support when needed.
  5. Clear Communication: Ensure that those with hidden disabilities know about the scheme and can easily spot and access support with the Sunflower lanyard. Esplora recommends having signage at the registration desk as well as communication through their online portal and social media.
  6. Sustainable Solutions: Promote eco-friendly practices by encouraging visitors to customise and reuse their Sunflower lanyards by adding their favourite keychain fidgets, chewies or visual aids.
  7. Custom Comfort: Offer alternative options for those who find the lanyard uncomfortable, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower also sells pins or ribbons.
  8. Be active, not passive: Utilise the Sunflower lanyard not only to identify those with hidden disabilities, but to make their experience at your science centre or museum more accessible and enjoyable. For example, the team at Esplora allow those wearing the Sunflower lanyard queue priority.
  9. Regional Restrictions: Be aware that your country may not officially recognise some hidden disabilities as eligible for disability cards. The team at Esplora have a concession card programme that allows those with hidden disabilities, who are not in possession of a disability card, to enter with a discounted price.
  10. Hear the Stories: Gain insight and empathy by reading or listening to personal experiences with the Sunflower Stories.

Why not follow Esplora's lead and implement the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative in your science centre or museum?

Watch this space for more Top Tips from accessbility and inclusivity initiatives as implemented by Ecsite members.