The UK government recently made face coverings mandatory in some public places to prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, this poses a dilemma for many in our community whose disability makes wearing a mask difficult. The government has said that people with disabilities are exempt from the mask requirements, but the public has not been well briefed on the exemption which has led to people with disabilities being questioned or even harassed.
Disability campaigners have been urging the public to hesitate to question people not wearing a mask because many disabilities are not physically apparent, including lung problems, poor hearing, or sensory issues which make wearing a mask challenging.
“As face coverings become mandatory in shops in England, we urge the public to think twice before they judge someone for not wearing a face mask. Not all health conditions are visible and people with lung conditions have already told us that they’ve been publicly confronted by strangers about not wearing one, leaving them feeling anxious and humiliated,” said Sarah MacFadyen, Head of Policy at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation.
So, what else can be done? Unite Professionals is supporting campaigns on social media and our website to help educate our followers and the general public about the face mask exemptions to ensure people with disabilities are treated within their rights.
There are also some resources that can support people with disabilities who need to be in public but cannot wear a mask:
The government has created resources for people who are exempt from wearing a face covering, including exemption badges that can be printed off or downloaded to a mobile phone. The badges can be displayed in public to help others understand that the person is exempt from the rules and to help everyone feel more comfortable in social situations.
There is also a government card that can be printed off that allows people with hearing issues to request that others remove their face mask while keeping a distance to help those who are hard of hearing read lips and communicate better.
The statement from the government says, “The government has been working with a wide range of disabled people’s organisations and charities throughout the pandemic to better understand the concerns of disabled people and to ensure that government guidance continues to be as inclusive as possible.”
Contact our team if you are concerned about how the face covering exemptions work or if you require help managing a disability.