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Mitchell Airport launches Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program to increase travel accessibility

Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport launched a new program on December 3 aimed at making air travel easier for passengers who have non-visible “hidden” disabilities.

Through the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program, the Airport will provide green lanyards featuring bright sunflowers to discreetly identify passengers who may need additional support, help, or a little more time.

Sunflower lanyards are available upon request for individuals who have a hidden disability. The lanyards are available free of charge at the Airport Information desk, which is located pre-security in the Airport’s Concession Mall. Anyone who requests a lanyard will receive one with no questions asked.

“Here at MKE, we strive to offer the best and most accessible travel experience for ALL passengers. Some travelers have a hidden disability and need extra assistance or patience from employees along the way,” said Brian Dranzik, Airport Director. “This is an outstanding amenity for travelers as we approach the holiday travel season and beyond. I’m proud that MKE is the first Airport in Wisconsin to offer this inclusive amenity.”

The Airport has worked with its tenants and stakeholders to ensure that anyone wearing the Sunflower lanyard will get the dignified treatment that they deserve. The Airport is also working with the Milwaukee County Office for Persons with Disabilities to get the word out to a wide range of groups that support people with special needs.

“Individuals who choose to wear the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard can discreetly identify that they may need some extra support or help at the Airport. Maybe they need a little more time at the TSA checkpoint or while visiting MKE’s great shops and restaurants,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “This program is consistent with Milwaukee County’s strategic initiatives to achieve racial equity and make Milwaukee County the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”

Hidden disabilities include autism, chronic pain, learning difficulties, mental health conditions, mobility issues, speech impairments, vision loss, or hearing loss. These also include respiratory conditions like diabetes, chronic pain, or sleep disorders that significantly impact day-to-day life.

Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to air travel, the Airport also announced a newly-branded MKE Cares public relations initiative. Moving forward, additional passenger-friendly enhancements, like the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program, will be included under the MKE Cares umbrella.

In addition to the Sunflower Program, MKE already offers accessibility features such as indoor and outdoor service animal relief areas, adult changing tables, free Aira access which provides assistance for blind and low vision passengers, fully accessible parking shuttles, accessible parking spots throughout all airport-owned parking facilities, and complimentary wheelchair service and special assistance, courtesy of MKE’s airlines.

The Accessibility team at Gatwick Airport recognized in 2016 that some passengers had an invisible disability and may need some support, assistance or simply a little more time. And so the Sunflower was designed to allow passengers to choose to indicate they have an invisible disability to have the confidence to travel independently, knowing that they get support, assistance or a little more time when they need it without having to disclose their invisible disability.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program was created in 2016 by Gatwick Airport and various charities. It has since been adopted by airports around the world, and includes a list of participating locations.

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Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport

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