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Call to 'Be Kind' to People Who Are Exempt from Wearing Face Coverings

Call to 'Be Kind' to People Who Are Exempt from Wearing Face Coverings

On Friday last week, the day face coverings became compulsory in shops, the government issued a press release asking the public and businesses to ‘be mindful’ of people who are exempt from wearing a face covering. It makes clear that 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.

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.”

The government has produced new guidance and a new range of exemption cards available to print or display on mobile phones bearing the wording ‘Be Kind. Keep Your Distance. Thank you for Your Understanding’ in support of this sentiment.

This comes at a time when charities are calling for the government to listen to and better understand the concerns of disabled people on this issue and to do more to promote awareness around who is exempt from the face mask rules following reports of disabled people facing hostility from the public and businesses as in this recent Guardian report . The incident is being investigated by the British Transport Police.

Richard Kramer, chief executive of the disability charity Sense, said his organisation had received lots of reports of disabled people being challenged for not wearing a covering. He said: “These experiences cause distress and anxiety, and lead many disabled people to feel they have to stay at home, where they become isolated. We welcome the government’s introduction of ‘exemption cards’, but more must be done to raise public awareness of who is exempt from wearing face coverings, so the public are on board and disabled people feel supported.”

At Disability Sheffield we’re hearing about people’s general anxieties about the card and some incidents of verbal aggression or poor service/lack of understanding from staff in shops and on transport despite showing an exemption card. We appreciate this may be due to an initial misunderstanding of the rules or it may be the tip of an iceberg as more disabled people who are exempt venture back out following the easing of restrictions.

Please get in touch with us to let us know about your experience, whatever it is, and if we can help at all by contacting a service provider on your behalf or helping you to report any incident where you felt threatened .
Call us on 0114 253 6750 or email us at info@disabilitysheffield.org.uk .

All of the latest information about Face Coverings including how to obtain an exemption card is available on our Coronavirus Information and Support page , just click on the Face Coverings tab.

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