Flower Power: Shining a Light on Hidden Disabilities

Alyssa Cressotti
December 5, 2023
field of sunflowers

“When I first came to Pace, I had a very difficult time getting the accommodations I needed because my disabilities weren’t visible to the human eye,” recalls Film and Screen Studies student Lucie Belle Flagg ’24. “So many of my peers with hidden disabilities had also been turned down for accommodations and I realized that this was a serious issue at Pace. With such emphasis on Opportunitas at Pace, we needed to find a way to offer equitable access to such opportunities.”

So, Lucie got to work.

In March of 2022, she visited her sister who lives overseas in St Andrews, Scotland. There, Lucie was introduced to the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower and how it works worldwide to support individuals with hidden disabilities and help raise awareness. The sunflower is a globally recognized symbol for hidden disabilities and wearing one helps wearers to discreetly signal to people around them that they may need additional support or help in public areas.

Pace University student, Lucie Flagg wearing her sunflower lanyard
Lucie Belle Flagg '24 tabling with information about Hidden Disabilities at Pace.

Hidden disabilities include, but are certainly not limited to, ADHD, anxiety disorders, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, depression, epilepsy, food allergies, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, PoTS, multiple sclerosis, and so much more.

“Understanding the power of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower project, I applied for the Millennium Fellowship—a fellowship program presented by the United Nations Academic Impact and the Millennium Campus Network,” she says. “My project proposal aimed to provide support to Pace students, staff, and faculty with hidden disabilities by participating in the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme.”

That summer, Lucie was accepted into the fellowship program and began her fundraising efforts for her project, Hidden Disabilities at Pace, with the aim of providing support for students, staff, and faculty on campus with hidden disabilities. Nearly 30 people from Pace and beyond backed her project, and she was able to collect almost $1,300 to purchase sunflower-themed lanyards which would be shared with the Pace Community.

“With the support of Dr. Sue Maxam, we were able to purchase a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower membership and hundreds of lanyards,” Lucie says. “Dr. Maxam and I largely rode solo throughout this process, so seeing people on campus getting involved makes all of the hard work worth it.”

“It’s key to spread awareness and advocate for inclusivity. You have the power to contribute to a more inclusive and accommodating community.”

Through her tireless efforts, Pace University has become the first university in New York to officially launch the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program, empowering those with hidden disabilities to take up the sunflower icon as a means of representation and self-advocacy. “Anyone that self-identifies as having a hidden disability should consider getting involved by representing the sunflower on campus and educating their peers about hidden disabilities,” she says.

So, what can you do if you see someone in our community with a sunflower lanyard?

“The most important piece of advice for supporting people wearing a Sunflower lanyard is to be understanding and patient. Everyone’s disability is different, so you can’t make assumptions

Samara Durgadin posing with her sunflower lanyard.
Samara Durgadin '25 was the first Pace student to pick up a lanyard.

about their needs. It can be tricky to navigate a conversation about the Sunflower in a way that respects one’s privacy, but doing so can make a huge difference,” explains Lucie. “If you notice someone wearing the lanyard who appears to be struggling you can absolutely offer assistance. However, it’s essential to not insist. Respect their choice to decline help, as some people choose to manage challenges independently.”

"Being the first person to receive a sunflower lanyard at Pace is a privilege that I am so grateful for!" says Behavioral Neuroscience student Samara Durgadin '25. "As for my fellow lanyard wearers, I hope wearing the sunflower lanyard helps you feel less alone in your struggles and reminds you that your conditions are real and matter greatly, even if they don’t show outwardly."

“Personally, if someone asks me why I wear my lanyard, I am beyond happy to explain my disabilities. But that’s not the case for everyone. Don’t request details unless they choose to share them,” Lucie says, adding that it’s also very important to be aware of environmental factors. Avoiding crowds, loud noise, or bright lights can help people feel more comfortable and communicate better. “Lastly,” she says “It’s key to spread awareness and advocate for inclusivity. You have the power to contribute to a more inclusive and accommodating community.”

"To be able to receive a sunflower lanyard and then see my peers wearing them warms my heart and lets me know I’m not alone," adds Samara.

Want to pick up a sunflower lanyard of your own? Head to the main security desk at One Pace Plaza. Unlike the process for formal accommodations, picking up a lanyard requires no proof of diagnosis or documentation. You can simply ask a security guard for a lanyard, and they will happily give you one with no questions asked.

If you’re ready to learn more about Lucie’s project, follow @hiddendisabilitiesatpace on Instagram. To learn more about the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, check out their official website.

More from Pace


When Michael Falco took new course Game Development for Everyone, he never expected to end up building and coding his own arcade game—which you can play at its home on the Pleasantville Campus!

Faculty and Staff

A firsthand witness to its ascent from a nascent club to a veritable powerhouse in competitive gaming, Julia Cardillo ’22, Assistant Director of Esports, shares her insights on the evolution of Pace's Esports program.


The Pace Community's incredible generosity on Giving Tuesday surpassed our goal, resulting in 2,430 gifts and over $823,901 raised for student success.