Chicago/ Transportation & Infrastructure
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Published on May 17, 2024
Chicago Airports Join Global Initiative to Support Hidden DisabilitiesSource: The original uploader was Sox23 at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Travelers navigating the hustle of Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports can now find a new symbol of support for passengers with hidden disabilities. The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) unveiled a partnership with the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program on Thursday, aiming to make the airport experience smoother for those whose needs may not be obvious at first glance. The program, which is already in place in over 200 airports worldwide, coincides with the global observance of Accessibility Awareness Day and reflects Chicago's ongoing commitment to inclusion, as per the City of Chicago.

According to an announcement from the CDA's Third Annual Airport Expo and Job Fair, the simple yet effective use of the Sunflower symbol will alert staff and fellow travelers to the presence of individuals who might require additional support. CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee expressed enthusiasm for the initiative, emphasizing the importance of accessible travel. "This simple tool will give our staff and airport employees the skills and knowledge they need to provide the best customer service possible to all passengers regardless of ability," Rhee stated, as detailed by the City of Chicago's official website. "As we look to the future of our airports, expanding accessibility in travel is key, and increasing inclusivity for all is our top priority."

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program, launched in 2016, distributes lanyards bearing the sunflower symbol to indicate that the wearer has an invisible disability or condition. Providing a range of 25 icons for passengers who choose to participate, the lanyards communicate specific needs, such as sensitivities to light and sound, the requirement for assistance with mobility, or a need for urgency in accessing restroom facilities.

Commissioner Rachel Arfa of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities also advocated for the program, noting its potential to alleviate stress for travelers. "Individuals with any kind of disability, whether visible or invisible should feel free to use the Sunflower lanyard as a tool in easing stress while traveling," Arfa said, according to the City of Chicago's official website. She lauded the new feature as another step towards establishing Chicago as the most accessible and inclusive city in the world.

Chicago-Transportation & Infrastructure