MKE Airport Will Join the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program

This is one of many ways the airport is working to make travel more accessible.

In recognition of Friday’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport has announced that it will take part in a program aimed at making air travel easier for passengers who have non-visible 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 while traveling.

Sunflower lanyards are available upon request for individuals who have a hidden disability. The lanyards are available free of charge at the airport’s 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.

“We strive to offer the best and most accessible travel experience for all passengers,” Mitchell International Airport Director Brian Dranzik said. “Some travelers have a hidden disability and need extra assistance or patience from employees along the way. This is an outstanding amenity for travelers as we approach the holiday travel season and beyond.”

Mitchell will be the first airport in Wisconsin to offer the amenity. It is now one of more than 30 U.S. airports taking part in the program. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program began in 2016 at Gatwick Airport in London.

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

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, according to Mitchell officials. The airport is also working with the Milwaukee County Office for Persons with Disabilities to spread the word 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,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said. “Maybe they need a little more time at the TSA checkpoint or while visiting the (airport’s) great shops and restaurants.”

The airport has 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.

Mitchell already offers the following accessibility features:

  • Indoor and outdoor service animal relief areas
  • Adult changing tables
  • Free Aira access that provides assistance for blind and low-vision passengers
  • Fully accessible parking shuttles
  • Accessible parking spots throughout all airport-owned parking facilities
  • Complimentary wheelchair service and special assistance, courtesy of the airport’s airlines

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.