Clifford Gardens Shopping Centre shines focus on hidden disabilities

by Sophie Berrill
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Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

Clifford Gardens Shopping Centre in Toowoomba, Queensland, is launching the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative on Friday 1 September for customers affected by hidden disabilities – a category of health conditions that are not immediately apparent to others. 

Of the 1 in 6 Australians with a disability, it is estimated that up to 80 percent are living with a non-visible disability, according to the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative

Those with invisible disabilities can choose to wear a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower product, such as a wristband or lanyard, which discreetly indicates to people around the wearer that they may need additional support or a little more time. 

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower products help to discreetly identify people with hidden disabilities. Image: supplied.

The rise of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

Since its launch in 2016, businesses from every sector have been joining the global Sunflower network, ranging from retail, tourism, transport, education, healthcare, government, to football teams, theme parks, theatres and financial institutions.  

Sandee Facy of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower team says she is “incredibly thrilled” to welcome Clifford Gardens to the global initiative. 

“The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower exists to help those who face challenges such as Autism, chronic pain, dementia, anxiety, depression, visual or hearing impairment. The aim is to help make the invisible, visible.”  

From 1 September, Clifford Gardens will encourage customers who identify as needing support for a hidden disability to collect a free sunflower lanyard or wristband from the customer service desk, says centre manager Jessica Wills.

“Because they are not always  obvious, individuals with hidden disabilities may face challenges in receiving appropriate accommodations, understanding, and support from others,” Wills says. 

“By promoting awareness and sensitivity around hidden disabilities in [the] centre, we hope that all customers can access the service and receive the sensitivity and assistance they need.” 

Clifford Gardens

Clifford Gardens Shopping Centre. Image: supplied.

Promoting inclusivity and accessibility within the retail sector

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program is just one of the initiatives employed by Clifford Gardens to equip centre staff and retailers with the knowledge and tools to create a more inclusive and accessible environment for those with a disability. 

A comprehensive retailer training and education program, AccessABLE Spaces, has also been implemented to encourage best practice for amenity and access, supporting retailers to implement inclusive practices which provide a welcoming, comfortable and safe space for shoppers. 

A ‘Quiet Hour’ initiative will also launch in the centre on 5 September to assist customers who find it challenging to shop in a heightened-sensory environment. Every Tuesday between 10:30am and 11:30am the centre will create a low-sensory environment by reducing visual and audio stimulation.

Quiet Places

‘Quiet Places and Calming Spaces’. Image Supplied

Complimentary wheelchairs and mobility scooters are also available for hire from the Customer Service Desk. In addition to the gazetted Accessible Parking Spaces, Clifford Gardens also provides dedicated parking close to the main entrances for visitors over 70 years old who may need accessibility assistance. 

With the recent launch of their new website, Clifford Gardens also incorporated new accessibility tools to allow easier navigation, committing to inclusion not only in the physical environment, but across all customer touch points. 

For more information about the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, AccessABLE Spaces and Clifford Gardens, visit 

Read more about how to design spaces that prioritise neurodiverse experiences.

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