Hidden Disabilities and Face Coverings

From today (Friday 24th July 2020) face coverings must be worn in shops, in banks, takeaways, on public transport and hospitals. We can expect other places will also start asking that people wear face coverings but not everyone is able to due to hidden disabilities.

Hidden disabilities don’t have physical signs and include learning difficulties, mental health as well as mobility, speech, visual or hearing impairments. They can also include asthma, COPD, and other lung conditions as well as chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders when those diseases significantly impact day-to-day life.

Living with these conditions can make daily life more demanding for many people. They affect each person in different ways and can be painful, exhausting, and isolating. Without visible evidence of the hidden disability, it is frequently difficult for others to recognise or acknowledge the challenges faced and as a consequence, sympathy and understanding can often be in short supply.  

In the past, SDN has shared news about the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme  https://shropshire-disability.net/sunflower-lanyards-launch-7th-october-2019-at-sainsburys/

We know many of our members are concerned about wearing a face covering and feel this means they have to stay in and risk becoming isolated. Hidden Disabilities have produced a Face Covering exempt card. They cost 55p each.

The card indicates that you have a hidden disability and have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face-covering. 

Who is exempt from wearing a face mask in the UK?

Please click on the links below for the government guidelines on who is exempt in your region from wearing face coverings.

England: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers#exemptions-face-coverings

Scotland: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-phase-3-staying-safe-and-protecting-others/pages/face-coverings/

Northern Ireland: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-face-coverings

When will face masks be compulsory in shops in England and Scotland?

In Scotland, the policy was put in place on 10 July.

In England, the policy comes into play on July 24.

Staff themselves will not have to wear a mask.

Are there any exceptions to the rule?

Yes, there are some exceptions, which the government have outlined as ‘reasonable’ reasons for not wearing a mask. These include:

  • if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate

How does the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower face-covering card help me?

The Hidden Disabilities face-covering exempt card indicates that the wearer has a hidden disability and has a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering. Businesses who are members of the scheme are aware of our card and provide support, help, assistance or simply a little more time to those wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

However, please note that shops and public transport can still refuse you entry if you are not wearing a face covering.

Can shop-owners and staff refuse entry if I am not wearing a face covering?

Shop owners and staff themselves can call the police to enforce the rule or refuse the person entry.

Will I be fined for not wearing a face covering?

In England and Scotland, those who do not adhere to the rules face a fine of up to £100. It will be reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days. 

Compulsory mask-wearing will be enforced by police, according to the government, rather than shop owners and staff themselves, who can call the police or refuse the person entry.

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