Christchurch Airport introduces scheme to support disabled people as experts call for more to be done

Christchurch Airport is introducing the sunflower lanyard scheme to support people with hidden disabilities.

It's a globally recognised programme that shows staff lanyard wearers might need extra support.

But the disabled community believes New Zealand airports need to do more.

"We see them wearing that lanyard and perhaps looking a little bit lost or in need of help, it's a good identifier for us to have that intervention," Christchurch Airport head of Customer & Commercial, Craig Dunstan said.

One-quarter of New Zealanders live with an impairment or long-term disability, and the airport is working to recognise this.

A disability spokesperson believes the programme is a move in the right direction.

"It's a step towards awareness and creating awareness of those different impairments that we can't tell that people have," Disabled Persons Assembly chief executive Prudence Walker said.

As airports can be overwhelming places for some people.

"Things like the check-in hall of course or security screening and these sorts of steps they’re a little bit, or they can be a little bit of a high anxiety point," Dunstan said.

Joanne Dacombe uses a lanyard but wants our airports and airlines to go even further.

"We don't do it here yet and I'd like to see it but in Adelaide, they have an assistance lane and so it's much quicker in terms of going through security and to your gate," Dacombe said.

Jetstar said it is reviewing how to best support customers with non-visible disabilities, which will include training staff to recognise sunflower items.

Air New Zealand supports the initiative and said its staff are trained to support people wearing the lanyard through their journey.

"In the ideal scenario, we wouldn't need something like this because our airports and everything else in society could be really responsive to people whatever their needs were," Walker said.

For Christchurch Airport, it is just the beginning.