We are aware of the barriers and challenges the requirement to wear face coverings creates for some disabled people.
From Friday 24 July, it was made mandatory for people to wear a face covering when visiting a shop, supermarket or other identified settings. This is in addition to social distancing and good hand hygiene, as a face covering can help people protect one another in indoor environments.
The current guidance is published on the Government website here, however, a summary of some key points in relation to disabled people is available below.
Together with children under the age of 11 and those unable to wear a face covering, exemptions will apply to those with:
- Breathing difficulties and other respiratory conditions
- Conditions affecting their dexterity, meaning they are not able to put on a face covering
- Mental health conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders
- Other non-visible disabilities such as autism
- Cognitive impairments, including dementia, who may not understand or remember the need to wear a face covering
- Visual impairments, with a restricted field of vision, particularly if any residual vision is at the lower edge of the normal field of view
- Impairments which would make it difficult to put on or take off a face covering safely, accurately, consistently or without pain
The list of exemptions is not exhaustive and would extend to someone who has a justifiable reason for not wearing one on the grounds of health or disability not outlined above.
The exemptions also apply to people who are with someone for whom a face covering will inhibit communication, for example because they lip read or rely on facial expressions. People will be able to remove their face covering if a person relies on lip reading and BSL to communicate. If a person is in distress because a face covering is being used, a person can remove their face covering to communicate more clearly with their mouths visible so disabled people can lip read. This would include people with learning disabilities and autism.
People do not need to prove they have an exemption. Staff and employees in shops are expected to act reasonably and not challenge people on why they are not wearing a covering.
Staff and employees in shops may be asked to remove their face covering if people are or will struggle to communicate with them. They should do this when it is possible to keep to social distancing guidance. People should continue to follow the advice on using face coverings closely, which is to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on and after taking it off. People should try to avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth and store used face coverings in a plastic bag until they have an opportunity to wash them.
Everyone must wear a face covering when they are in a shop or supermarket if they can, but it is recognised reasonable adjustments are necessary for some people.