AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) announced Tuesday that it launched a new accessibility service aimed at assisting passengers with “hidden,” or non-visible, disabilities. 

AUS joins 201 airports across 29 countries that have implemented the Hidden (or non-visible) Disabilities (HD) Sunflower Program, which allows folks with conditions that may not be immediately apparent – such as autism or being hard of hearing – to subtly disclose that they are living with a disability and may require more patience.

“Navigating airports just regularly can be a very stressful experience, much more so for people with non-visible disabilities,” Lesly Ramirez, a public information specialist with AUS, told KXAN. “Our hope is that, with this program, we’re not only assisting these passengers but raising awareness for non-visible disabilities. And just sort of speaking to the type of diverse passenger profile that we see on a daily basis.”

To participate in the program, passengers or a companion can order a Sunflower lanyard to wear while navigating AUS. The green lanyard acts as a visual cue to inform airport staff of their condition. 

Passengers can request a lanyard to be picked up in person, at the airport or mailed to them ahead of their trip by contacting the AUS Guest Services team via email at or by calling (512)-530-2414, AUS said. 

Ramirez said that airport officials started rolling out the program April 1 and they have sent training materials to all staff. “Our staff and, hopefully, our onsite partners, too, are all being encouraged to participate in the program,” Ramirez said. 

Woman in 70s breaks wrist and spends two nights in jail following ‘misunderstanding’ at AUS

Several months ago, a nearly deaf Florida woman in her 70s was arrested by police after she allegedly caused a disturbance at the AUS. Her wrist was broken during the arrest, and she spent two nights in the Travis County jail.

Ramirez said that the initiation of the program isn’t a direct response to this incident but said they are aware of it.

“Even though we can’t sort of speculate about whether or not this program would have changed the outcome of that situation, we do know that it currently addresses the need for training amongst our staff and other onsite partners that will hopefully provide the necessary support for our passengers,” she said. 

The Sunflower Program is one of several initiatives AUS has made to make the airport more accessible for all passengers. Late last year, the airport also opened a mobility lounge for those with mobility assistance needs.