Like most people, I can’t say I like wearing face masks, but I will wear one where the guidance says it is necessary in consideration for others because I may not like it but I do not find it a struggle. I suspect that is the approach of most others out there, too.
There is a concern (police have warned about it and some supermarkets say they will not enforce face covering) that people who do not wear a mask will be stigmatised. What we have to remember is that there are some disabilities which make it very difficult, and we cannot always tell someone has a disability just by looking at them.
If I didn’t mention that I have asthma, no one would probably know for example. Luckily, my asthma is currently mild; others are not so fortunate.
So, the government is asking he public to be mindful of people who are exempt from wearing a face covering.
The list of exemptions, which has been in place since face coverings became mandatory on public transport, includes hidden conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders, autism, breathing difficulties, dementia, reduced vision or if you are with someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.
Under the regulations, members of the public will need to wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and transport hubs, to help curb the spread of the virus.
People are not required to prove they are exempt and it is for individuals to choose how they would want to communicate this to others. For those who would feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering, exemption cards are available to print or display on mobile phones from gov.uk.
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson said:
The new regulations are an important step forward in our efforts to defeat coronavirus but I would urge the public and businesses to be mindful of people who are exempt from wearing a face covering – particularly those with disabilities and health conditions.
Some disabilities are hidden and not immediately obvious and everyone must play their part and act sensitively towards people who may need additional support.
I will continue to work across government to ensure our guidance and responses to the pandemic are as inclusive and accessible as possible.
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.