Program allows those with hidden disabilities to discretely inform airport personnel of their possible need for additional assistance

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) is pleased to announce the launch of a new program to allow travelers with hidden disabilities to self-identify their possible need for additional assistance from personnel at Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport. The “Sunflower Program” is a voluntary program in which individuals can request a free sunflower lanyard, which when worn allows travelers with hidden disabilities to discreetly indicate they might need additional assistance from airport employees, such as the extra time needed at check-in or security, escorting to gates, or assistance with reading signage or other common airport procedures.

Hidden disabilities are not always visible but can affect the daily life of a person living with them. Some disabilities are not immediately obvious, such as autism, chronic pain, dementia, anxiety, and visual or hearing impairment. Living with a hidden disability can make daily life more demanding for many people and it can be difficult for others to identify, acknowledge or understand the challenges.  

“Providing the best passenger experience is the goal of everyone at Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport,” said Iftikhar Ahmad, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. “As part of that commitment we are launching the “Sunflower Program” to allow passengers with hidden disabilities to discreetly inform airport personnel of their possible need for additional assistance or extra time to complete a task when traveling through an airport.”

“The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower has helped increase awareness of the challenges adults and children with hidden disabilities can face, especially when faced with the challenges that can accompany travel through airports,” said RIAC Board Chair Jonathan N. Savage. “Hidden Disabilities Sunflower wearers can benefit from help being offered to make their daily living a little easier, increasing their level of comfort while receiving a higher level of customer service from airport staff.”

Passengers can request a Sunflower Program lanyard via an online application at https://flyri.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Lanyard-Request-final.pdf,  by calling Customer Service at 401-691-2000 or emailing at [email protected]. The Sunflower Lanyard Program was introduced by Gatwick Airport in 2016, and is now in place in 25 airports in the United States and 72 airports around the world, with that number expected to grow over time. 

No documentation is required for those requesting the sunflower lanyard. Participation is voluntary, and passengers do not need to disclose the nature of their disability. Passengers may choose to disclose their disability on the card, but they do not have to. Wearing a lanyard DOES NOT guarantee fast tracking through security or any preferential treatment. Passengers will still be required to arrange special assistance with their airlines and TSA Cares.About Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport: A convenient and low-cost gateway to New England, Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport (PVD) has a large catchment area with 7.5 million residents within 90 minutes of the airport. It attracts passengers from nearby Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut. PVD is located just outside of Providence, Rhode Island. Well known for ease of traveler access, affordable parking, and faster security lines, Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport was named as one of USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Best Small Airports” for 2021, “Top Three” in Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best 2021” Awards and was most recently named 5th “Best Airport” in the U.S. in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. With three Top 5 rankings in 2021, Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport has now earned the distinction of being the only airport in the Northeast to receive honors from all three major travel publications.

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