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by on December 14, 2020
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To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the government introduced rules that among other things insist that people must wear face coverings when out in public and in business establishments. Some people however, are exempt from the face covering rules. Among those exempt from wearing face coverings or facemasks are people with mental disabilities and the people that provide care to such people. These people can move freely in public with facemasks or face coverings. To allow people with disabilities and their carers move freely, there are exemption cards available on the government website. These cards can be used a mobile phone badge, print it out and carry it with you or print it as a badge.

What these exemption cards show

These exemption cards show that you are not required to wear a mask or face covering even though by law, it is not necessary to carry an exemption card or a written evidence to show why you are not putting on a facemask or face covering. People with mental disabilities such as Alzheimer’s or autism require special care, there has been a lot of anger shown towards these people and their carers because they are seen not wearing masks. Because of the way society is structured, it is important as a carer to ensure safety of those in your care. If both of you are barred from entering a shop, bus or a train, explain why both of you are not wearing face covering and show them your exemption cards. There is no gainsaying that there is a lot of bias against people with mental disabilities and conscious or unconscious infringement of their rights.

Due to ignorance and fear, many people with mental disabilities and their carers have either been attacked or verbally assaulted. The government is not helping matters by not shedding enough light on the exemptions. On the government website, the list of exemptions is not given enough prominence; it seems almost like an afterthought. The result is a general lack of awareness from the public and an onslaught of disabled people and their carers by an uninformed public. Apart from not sending the message enough through a national campaign, there is also a lack of effort from national leaders to speak out on the issue of face covering exemptions for people with disability and how the public is meant to treat them. It seems that in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic, people with disabilities have been left on their own to fight battles they are ill equipped to fight without support from either the government or the citizens. It puts the carers in a very precarious position.

It is true though, that the government is facing a battle with intentional defaulters of the face covering and social distancing rules but the government should not make people with disability and their carers collateral damage in a war not of their making. There have been mixed messages from senior government officials who go on air and say it is compulsory to put face coverings on one hand and condemn attacks on people with disabilities and their carers who are exempt from wearing them. Usually, there is no time when these messages are passed that the government talks about the exemptions to the face-covering rule. When they generally criminalize people without facemasks or face coverings, the people act accordingly and infringe on the rights of people with disabilities. In July 2020, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, said she hoped majority of the populace would comply with the new rules on face coverings. She added that she hoped those who did not comply were shamed into complying or shamed into leaving stores by members on the public.

Not a single word was uttered by the senior public figure on those who were exempted from face coverings and how the public should treat them. This example shows the scope of the problem faced by people with disabilities and their carers. They do not have to show exemption cards to prove that they deserve exemption, they have the right to keep their disabilities to themselves and not advertise it by carrying an exemption card, and they have the right to be treated with dignity by members of the public.

In confined spaces like in a bus or a train, where it is difficult for people with disabilities to get down when faced with assault from the public the results can often be very damaging. There have been many cases where people with disabilities are confronted by their fellow passengers for not wearing masks. This misplaced urge to perform their civic duty by members of the public is leading to an increase in the incidence of disability hate crime. Wrongly, many disabled people have been accused both online and in the streets as “virus spreaders” that put both the public and the NHS at risk.

Of course, this is not true; the government with its inability to set the record straight of face covering exemptions has put disabled people and their carers in a precarious position. This led to some of them refusing to go out at all to prevent harassment and public shaming. This is denying this people of their right to move freely. A lot of these vulnerable people hope that soon, the government will begin an organized national campaign highlighting people who are exempt from wearing face covering and how the public should treat them.

If you are giving care to someone with mental disability, try to de-escalate any awkward situation before it gets out of hand and make sure to ensure the safety of the both of you. Though it is not compulsory, you can print out and take along the exemption cards. Samuel Exall also believe it saves a lot a stress and hassles especially on bus and train rides. The government also has a huge role to play; they have to make a conscious effort to send a clear message to the public ensuring they treat people with disabilities with dignity and respect.

Post in: Lifestyle, USA
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