Face covering exemptions (UK)

Selection of webpages with relevant information can be found at the end of this post.

If you follow along with my Instagram and my new account on TikTok you would be aware that I am exempt from face coverings.

The issue stands that the general public have declared the face-covering as the golden rule, and in the process neglect to think about the other safety precautions to follow. This mind-set concludes that no face covering = no care for safety/selfish.

Here are just a small selection of the other ways to stay safe:

  • Washing hands every 20/30 minutes.
  • 2m social distancing.
  • Bubble systems.
  • Essential activities.
  • Temperature checked where appropriate.
  • Tracing system.
  • Knowledge of the guidelines and legalities.

There has been neglect from the foundations of the face covering exemptions as it feels like an afterthought that they added in due to the Equality Act (2010).

You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

The Equality Act 2010 doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland.

Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 – UK Government [https://www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010]

As a result, there has been an uproar in ableism and misdirected anger. Not just myself, but many other people with valid exemptions are developing severe anxiety over leaving their houses and participating in essential and daily activities i.e. food shopping.

There is the damaging thought process that because some people abuse the system when they don’t need an exemption, all exemptions must be false.

At the start of the lockdown period, there was an outpour in support for those that fell under the ‘vulnerable’ category. [‘Only the vulnerable can die from it’ has traits of ableism but that is for another day.] Kindness, empathy, and understanding were all present.

Now that everyone is frustrated from the continual restrictions, the bubbling anger is out and about in public. It becomes an instant gratification when you can approach someone in person and tell them off. Can’t get through to the Government? Go for that apparent selfish person over there with a face-covering exemption.

However there is a flaw.

In doing so, those that just trying to get by are bearing the brunt of what should be directed at the higher powers / those who are actually breaking guidelines.

There is the repeated messaging that even with valid exemptions, that person is still selfish. In my head this doesn’t add up. The selfishness comes from not being able and in society’s favoured state thus having accessibility requirements to be able to live?

Of course, I am not proposing that an exemption equals living life in a pre-2020 state. Instead, I suggest that we took a moment to understand the Swiss Cheese model and how it relates [see additional links at the end], and broaden our critical thinking. Especially when I have witnessed the face covering become the only guideline that people follow as they see it as the golden object.

Those with exemptions as a collective, are not angels, nor do I wish to suggest that. I point to the direction that seeing the face covering as the singular thing to use can conclude in someone wearing a face covering incorrectly (and neglecting to continue the above guidelines) misdirect anger to someone with an exemption who is following all those bullet pointed guidelines above.

Ableism is a damaging concept. I just hope the guidelines, especially as this is turning out to be a long-term entity, become clearer and work with disabilities and disabled people rather than against them.

With that being said, there have been some amazing people who are very understanding of the exemption rulings and have done their research with critical thinking. Unfortunately, the few can still have a drastic impact when it’s a constant ‘you are selfish, you don’t care, just stay at home’ and neglect to take a moment to notice other safety measures in place and understand how daily life from their own interactions with the world varies for other people.

Webpages/Additional Information

UK Government

UK Government- Guidance: Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own (short version)

UK Government- Guidance: Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own

UK Government – Press release: Disabled people exempt from wearing face coverings under new government guidance

UK Government – Guidance: Face coverings in education

Disability Rights UK

Disability Rights UK – Coronavirus

Disability Rights UK – Disability Hate Crime Network

Disability Rights UK – Disabled people still facing discrimination over face coverings (July 2020)

Disability Rights UK – 40% fear challenge without face masks – DR UK survey (June 2020)

Disability Rights UK – Disabled people exempt from transport face covering rules

Disability Rights UK – Westminster Hall debate on Disability inaccessible (October 2020)

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme

Learn more about the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme.

Watch this short reel that briefly explains the relationship between the sunflower scheme and face covering exemptions.

Swiss Cheese Model

The Swiss cheese respiratory virus pandemic defence [Image from article]

The Swiss cheese respiratory virus pandemic defence - Good practice and  useful resources - Patient Safety Learning - the hub

One thought on “Face covering exemptions (UK)

  1. Pingback: Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme – The Talks by Megan Blog

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