Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) said this week it is expanding its programs to assist travelers and visitors with disabilities, adding a growing global lanyard initiative and new see-through masks for Travelers’ Assistance volunteers.  

MSP is among the first U.S airports to join the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program, which allows a person to self-identify as someone with a hidden disability who may require additional assistance. MSP is now offering the sunflower lanyards for free at the pre-security Travelers’ Assistance booth and there is no prerequisite to ask for or to wear them.

“There are many travelers who have disabilities that aren’t immediately visible but still create challenges in their daily lives,” said Phil Burke, assistant director, customer experience for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which operates MSP. “Without revealing the nature of the disability, the sunflower lanyard is a simple way to signal to airport staff that someone may need more help, more time or more patience through certain travel processes at the airport.”

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program began at Gatwick Airport (LGW) near London in 2016. It has since grown across Europe and to nearly 10 U.S. airports including Orlando, Miami, Seattle, San Jose and JFK.

The program is supported by the MSP Travelers with Disabilities Advisory Committee, which also endorsed a new program for all Travelers’ Assistance volunteers to be equipped with see-through face coverings. See through masks help people who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on seeing a speaker’s lips and facial expressions to understand conversation.

Other accessibility services available at the airport include Aira, a service that connects blind and low-vision people to remote agents for navigation or other assistance; Video Relay Interpreting (VRI), which provides hard of hearing people with enhanced communication with Traveler’s Assistance staff; TTY, a telecommunication device for deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired travelers; service animal relief areas (SARA); and inclusive restroom design.