One of the most common issues people are facing in this Corona Crisis is the denial or refusal of mask exemptions.
In a democratic society, you shouldn’t have to to EDUCATE OTHERS and DEFEND YOUR RIGHTS, which are clearly explained on government websites.
But we are living in unprecedented times and, unfortunately, sometimes, that is exactly what you will have to do!
So, here is the first thing you do when faced with a doorman or -woman who is oblivious to your mask exemption and ignorant of the potential repercussions of denying you a service because of a disability, albeit hidden, that prevents you from being able to wear a mask:
Step 1: The Law
… scroll down and you will see this text [PRINT THIS OUT for best results, or have the page, or a screenshot, ready to show, if needed]:
“When you do not need to wear a face covering
“In settings where face coverings are required in England, there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.
“This includes (but is not limited to):
- children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
- people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
- police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public
“Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this, this includes exemption cards. No person needs to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering.
“Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.
“This is a personal choice and is not necessary in law.“
What this means:
Among the non-exhaustive government list, which includes any mental or physical impairment, such as Autism or Aspergers, where you may have sensory issues, If YOU THINK wearing a mask is going to cause you harm, that is enough reason for you to be exempt on the ground of “to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury”. But there’s no need to enter a conversation with the doorman about this – they won’t understand you, and it’s cold outside now. Just know it in your head, and smile 😊.
Step 2: Ongoing Refusal (e.g., hairdresser, doctor’s surgery, dentist, etc.)
Some establishments have taken it upon themselves to go above and beyond, in their measures, because of indoctrination in their industries. For instance, the dental practice I normally visit had many zoom sessions prior to reopening their business in June, where there was repeated emphasis on the “deadly nature” of “this novel virus.” They were all led to believe that masks prevent spread, and were not shown the evidence that they don’t.
Once they have seen the government information above, if they insist their policy is to not allow any mask exemptions, then…
Ask that establishment to:
- please provide me a copy of
- your policy documentation, which
- explains how you are able to legally refuse a mask exemption,
- without being in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
Use these exact words; if necessary, practice saying it out loud a few times at home, so you’ll feel natural and confident when you’re in that challenging situation.
Focus on having a polite conversation and getting as much information from them as possible. Don’t be afraid to (politely) challenge what they say. Hold your head up, treat them as your equal, and remember the person you are speaking to is not the one making the decisions!
Are you satisfied?
Decide for yourself whether you are willing to compromise, after you have made your stance, look for concessions on their part and a willingness to cooperate with you. Is it more important for you to make your point, right now, and walk away without service, will you take it further (take names, details, etc.), or is it more important that, right now, you need treatment, or urgently need something from the shop? You can still always send in letter of complaint, write to your GP, etc, afterwards, but remember always to keep copies of all your letters.
I have never worn a mask to go into any establishment. My local Pizza Hut was the strongest opposition I’ve encountered thus far. The issue was that they were insisting on exemption card ‘proof’, which I had at the bottom of my handbag, which was cumbersome to fish out with a 12kg tired, hungry toddler with a full nappy in my arms. They had no knowledge of the fact that I do not NEED to show ‘proof’. They eventually let me in, after a heated conversation at the door with customers starting to queue behind me. When I showed them the government guidelines, stating clearly that ‘proof’ is not required, they then showed me THEIR policy documents, stating they require proof! No understanding of the fact that they are overriding government guidelines by imposing this policy on their customers!! So I explained to them that, if their policy goes against the government guidelines, they risk being in breach of the Equality Act because they could be discriminating against someone with a hidden disability, who is exempt from wearing a mask, who perhaps didn’t happen to have their ‘exemption card’ on them at that moment in time.
I hope this helps…
If it does, be sure to pass these recommendations on. The fact is, very few people are aware that the Government has published information about exemptions, or even that exemptions exist at all. This is leading to unnecessary anger and abuse from people who feel everyone has to comply and wear masks, even though they don’t want to themselves, and they could even be exempt without knowing it!! Hey – do someone a favour and let them know, they may not need to wear a mask.
YOU could be the trigger for positive change in someone’s life today!
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