As many of you will have seen on my Instagram page, I recently had my first experience flying with both an insulin pump and the Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring device. I want to share my experience with you to raise some awareness of the ‘Invisible Disability Lanyard’ in hope of easing some of your minds about your next ventures in the sky.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you get nervous about your airport experience before it’s even begun. There’s the packing, checking, and obsessive re-checking of supplies – the items and devices that literally keep us alive throughout our travels(!), basal rate fiddling and setting if you’re expecting a change in climate and/or activity at the other side, ensuring you have the adequate documentation detailing why you’re carrying half a pharmacy in your hand luggage, should you be asked for it, and the dreaded worries of taking our life-saving (and very costly…) devices through airport security without having their settings fried and reset by x-ray equipment and full body scanners, and this is all before you’ve even considered any other aspect of your flight, such as the seemingly simple task of packing your suitcase! Without fail, I have always dreaded airport security the most. The protocol seems to vary widely from airport to airport (even in the same country) and confrontations with pushy security staff are what I fear the most.
Back in August, I had the pleasure of travelling to sunny Florida once again, but this time, not only did I have my pump attached to me, I also had a Dexcom G6 – another life-saving bit of kit that can’t go through the full body scanners. As my flight date was fast approaching, the nerves were beginning to settle in once again, when in swooped the complete diababe that is @sweettilly, with the single most useful piece of information I think I’ve had in a while! Tilly sent me some information on something called an ‘Invisible Disability Lanyard’. Now, like me, you’d probably not heard about this initiative until recently and I certainly didn’t have any experience of actually using one.
So at this point, I should probably explain what this lanyard actually is, the benefits it boasts and how to check out if your airport offers the initiative yet and if so, how to obtain one. The ‘Invisible Disability Lanyard’ is a plastic card that is worn around the neck, or a bracelet that is worn on the wrist. It is usually green in colour, pretty discreet, and all airport staff are trained to spot and offer assistance in whatever way they can to any passengers wearing them. The lanyard allows you to use the priority security lane, which I would highly recommend to any pump or CGM users, particularly if you’re feeling a little nervous for getting through without any issues. As we all know, security can be a very busy department in most airports and there are usually a lot of guards and people trying to rush through. As someone who may potentially hold the queue up and feel pressurised to just walk-through the full body scanner, I absolutely dread this part of my journey. The priority lane allows you the space and time to get your liquid medications out of your bag along with a DSN letter, explain to a guard (who will have clocked your lanyard) your situation and then be appropriately dealt with in a calm manner. It is worth noting now that you may be asked to have a private search (either to one side or in a private room) if you cannot enter the full-body scanner, which for me personally is not an issue. The lanyard also allows you to board the plane on priority boarding. This is not something I did, so can’t comment on my experience of it. Overall, the lanyard made me feel much more at ease and I had the best security experience yet, even with an extra device. This initiative has been long overdue and really is a huge leap in the right direction for awareness of invisible disabilities.
In order to find out if the airport you are travelling from offers this scheme, you will need to check with the airport first if I have not listed it below:
Getting hold of a lanyard is also super easy. You will need your boarding pass to obtain one, so make sure you have this handy first! You will then need to head to the airports ‘Special Assistance Desk’ (this desk is usually identifiable by blue disability signs and is usually located in the main concourse, where the check-in desks are), where you should ask the question “please may I obtain a hidden disability lanyard”, and you will be issued with one WITHOUT question (I did not have to ‘explain myself’ in order to obtain this, which was a lovely change!) Please do check out the info on the airports website first though, as some (such as London Stanstead) ask for 48 hours notice of your arrival. And that is it; it could not be simpler!
There is more information on invisible disability lanyards on INPUT’s website, located here: https://www.inputdiabetes.org.uk/airports/.
And on the CAA, here: https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP1629%20HD%20-%20FINAL%2007JUN2018.pdf
It is worth checking out if your device(s) can go through the scanners before you travel. This information will be available on your pump companies website.
Info on travelling with the Dexcom G6 may be found here: https://www.dexcom.com/dexcom-airport-and-travel-guide-flying-dexcom-cgm
I’d love to hear any questions or feedback on your experiences with an Invisible Disability Lanyard!
Much love and thanks for reading, as always,