intu Milton Keynes is one of the first shopping centres in the UK to back the sunflower lanyard scheme to provide more help to visitors with hidden disabilities.

People with invisible conditions can collect and wear a lanyard from the popular destination’s customer service desks to signal that they may need more support during their visit.

It will act as a discreet sign to staff that the wearer could require help or a little more time with things like finding their way around a centre or store and getting access to a quiet space or close-by toilet facilities, due to conditions such as autism, dementia or diabetes.

Demand for the initiative has soared since it was first introduced by Gatwick Airport, with more than 10,000 sunflower lanyards collected from there following its launch three years ago.

intu has worked with Gatwick Airport to roll out the scheme at its popular shopping and leisure destinations across the UK and has also introduced a sunflower dog lead sleeve that will allow staff to easily recognise and support anyone bringing the animal into an intu centre.

It is one of a number of measures to create more accessible shopping and leisure experiences for intu Milton Keynes’s visitors and has been introduced ahead of Purple Tuesday on Tuesday 12th November, a day devoted to the needs of disabled shoppers.

Free sensory backpacks, which contain a number of different items to help autistic children enjoy their shopping experience, are also being available to hire from intu Milton Keynes’s customer service desk from this month. Designed by parents of autistic children, the bags include ear defenders, egg timers, sunglasses, fidget toys and an autism friendly guides to the centre.

Shelley Peppard at intu Milton Keynes, said, “We want to ensure that intu’s retail and leisure destinations are accessible and inclusive destinations for everyone. Nobody should feel excluded.”

“The measures we are introducing will help every visitor to feel welcome to enjoy a fantastic experience at intu Milton Keynes.”

intu visitor Charley Ann said, “Having two children on the autistic spectrum and attempting shopping is difficult for many reasons. They may act in a way that seems strange to others, but the lanyard may help them understand why. It’s also great for staff members to identify that we may need extra assistance.”

intu Milton Keynes also runs regular quiet hours on Mondays from 4 until 6pm and its staff are trained to support people with autism and dementia.