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Broward County Convention Center Adopts Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower at Broward County Convention Center
Stacy Ritter, Vice Mayor Beam Furr, Commissioner Hazell P. Rogers, Commissioner Lamar Fisher, Richard Gray, & Charlie Beirne. Photo courtesy of Visit Lauderdale

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In a groundbreaking move toward inclusivity, Visit Lauderdale, the official destination marketing organization for Greater Fort Lauderdale, has partnered with the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program. This partnership marks a significant step forward as the Broward County Convention Center becomes the first convention center in North America to adopt the program.

Celebrating a Milestone in Inclusive Travel Partnership

On Monday, April 29, 2024, Visit Lauderdale hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the convention center to celebrate this historic collaboration. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program provides a simple yet powerful tool for individuals with non-visible disabilities to communicate their need for additional assistance while traveling.

The adoption of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program at the convention center aligns with Visit Lauderdale’s broader commitment to accessibility and inclusion. This initiative has been incorporated into the area’s accessible tourism marketing efforts and has already been embraced by the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Lynn Smith, Regional Director of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower USA, expressed excitement about welcoming the convention center to the global program. By joining the initiative, the center is setting an example for other venues, both locally and nationally, in promoting accessibility and inclusion for individuals with non-visible disabilities.

Vice Mayor Beam Furr, Commissioner Hazelle P. Rogers, Commissioner Lamar Fisher.
Vice Mayor Beam Furr, Commissioner Hazelle P. Rogers, Commissioner Lamar Fisher. Photo courtesy of Visit Lauderdale

Advocating for Inclusive Travel Experiences

Highlighting the importance of accessible tourism in enabling everyone to enjoy vacation experiences fully, Richard Gray, Senior Vice President of Inclusion and Accessibility at Visit Lauderdale, emphasized the significance of embracing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program. “Accessible tourism allows all people to participate in and enjoy vacation experiences,” said Gray. “Whether they have a hidden or unhidden disability, we want them to feel acknowledged and valued when they visit Greater Fort Lauderdale. Hopefully, they will return time and time again to discover new places and have great experiences.” The aim is to ensure that individuals with both visible and hidden disabilities feel acknowledged and valued during their visit to Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Expressing Visit Lauderdale’s commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for all travelers, Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale, emphasized the organization’s dedication to championing inclusion and accessibility tourism. “Visit Lauderdale is committed to providing everyone a safe and supportive environment and has long championed inclusion and accessibility tourism by removing barriers in the travel experience for everyone,” said Ritter. The goal is to remove barriers in the travel experience, making it accessible to everyone.

Commending the convention center’s participation in the program, Lynn Smith, Regional Director of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower USA, highlighted their role in blazing a path of accessibility and inclusion for people with non-visible disabilities, both locally and nationally. “We are thrilled to welcome Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center to the global Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program. They are helping to blaze a path of accessibility and inclusion for people with non-visible disabilities both locally and nationally,” said Smith. Their involvement signifies a significant step forward in promoting inclusivity and accommodating the needs of individuals with hidden disabilities.

Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale
Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale. Photo courtesy of Visit Lauderdale

Empowering Travelers: Understanding Hidden Disabilities

Hidden disabilities are diverse and encompass a broad spectrum of conditions that affect individuals in various ways. These conditions include cognitive impairments, which may affect memory, attention, or decision-making abilities. Physical limitations, such as mobility impairments or chronic pain conditions, can impact an individual’s movement and ability to engage in daily activities. Sensory difficulties, including auditory or visual impairments, may affect how individuals perceive and interact with their environment. Additionally, chronic health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, and sleep disorders can have long-term effects on an individual’s physical and mental well-being.

What makes hidden disabilities unique is that they may not be immediately apparent to others. Unlike visible disabilities, which are readily noticeable, hidden disabilities are not always visible to the naked eye. This invisibility can lead to misunderstandings and misconceptions about the challenges that individuals with hidden disabilities face on a daily basis.

Despite their hidden nature, these disabilities can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to navigate the world around them. Tasks that may seem simple to others, such as traveling, socializing, or completing everyday errands, can pose significant challenges for individuals with hidden disabilities. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize and acknowledge the presence of hidden disabilities and provide support and understanding to those who may be struggling with them.

Lynn Smith, Regional Director of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower USA
Lynn Smith, Regional Director of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower USA. Photo courtesy of Visit Lauderdale

The Power of Recognition: Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Symbol

At the heart of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program is the recognizable sunflower symbol. Convention center staff will display the sunflower on various items such as lanyards, name badges, and wristbands, signaling their readiness to provide additional support to individuals with hidden disabilities.

Implementation at Broward County Convention Center

To ensure effective assistance, all Broward County Convention Center employees will undergo training on hidden disabilities. This training will empower staff members to understand the unique needs of individuals with hidden disabilities and provide the necessary support with empathy and respect.

In addition to training, the convention center has established a Zen Room dedicated to providing support to individuals with hidden disabilities or their traveling companions. This tranquil space offers a sanctuary where individuals can seek respite and assistance as needed.

The new Zen Room at the Convention Center
The new Zen Room at the Broward Convention Center. Photo courtesy of Visit Lauderdale

About the Organizations

Visit Lauderdale serves as the tourism department for Broward County, promoting the region’s 31 municipalities to leisure and business travelers worldwide. The organization’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion is reflected in its efforts to make Greater Fort Lauderdale a welcoming destination for everyone.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program allows individuals to discreetly indicate their non-visible disabilities and request additional assistance. Since its establishment in the UK in 2016, the program has been adopted globally by businesses and charities to support colleagues and customers.

Building a More Inclusive Destination

By incorporating the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program into its accessible tourism marketing, Visit Lauderdale is reinforcing Greater Fort Lauderdale as a welcoming destination for all travelers. This initiative builds upon the program’s successful adoption by the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, further demonstrating the area’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion.


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Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida and beyond, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

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