Flower Power: Detroit Zoological Society Joins Sunflower Hidden Disabilities Program 

Dr. De’Andrea Matthews is the vice president of diversity and community engagement at the Detroit Zoological Society.

Authored by Dr. De’Andrea Matthews, vice president of diversity and community engagement at the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS). 

On your next visit to the Detroit Zoo or Belle Isle Nature Center, you might see a few more sunflowers than you would normally expect.  

That’s because the DZS is now a member of the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities Program. We strongly believe this membership will amplify our support for individuals living with hidden disabilities. 

Guests at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center who have hidden physical, mental or neurological disabilities may now discretely indicate any needed support or assistance during their experience at the Zoo or Nature Center. Our staff will in-turn, and upon request, provide a Sunflower pin, lanyard or bracelet to guests to reaffirm that assistance is available whenever they need it.  

We are always seeking to be inclusive and continue to improve how we give our guests with disabilities the best possible experience. With programs like the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities Program, we can enhance what we offer to the communities we serve. It’s important to remember the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center are inclusive spaces for all; we don’t just serve able-bodied individuals. Many of our guests experience hidden disabilities, and this program is a wonderful tool to offer them. 

Sunflower Hidden Disabilities Program products allow guests to discretely indicate that they have a hidden disability.

Since establishing itself in the United Kingdom in 2016, the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities Program has grown into a global movement. Program officials estimate 80 percent of all disabilities are hidden — making the Sunflower an important, recognizable symbol to destigmatize hidden disabilities and offer support when needed.  

The Detroit Zoo is the first zoo in the state of Michigan to participate in the program. We’re hopeful our participation will spark an interest in the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities Program throughout Metro Detroit and beyond. 

The majority of the time, when we think about disability, we think about things we can see. But when hidden disabilities make up the majority, we don’t necessarily know when someone needs additional assistance, patience or understanding. By taking part in this program, the DZS will bring more awareness to hidden disabilities and lead the way for other organizations to do the same. 

We’re so pleased to be a part of this program, and we can’t wait to see the good that comes out of it. 

To learn more about the DZS’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility work, visit detroitzoo.org.  

Sunflower products include lanyards, bracelets, pins and more.