We are here to support, promote and develop voluntary and community action in Middlesbrough

Disabled people still facing discrimination over face coverings

Disability Rights UK logo

Disabled people are not being listened to when it comes to exemptions from wearing face masks, Disability Rights UK (DR UK) has told the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP.

In a letter to Mr Tomlinson, DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi wrote: “Disability Rights UK is horrified at the media coverage on face coverings. The message is that face coverings are compulsory with no mention of exemptions for disabled people or children. The talk is of police fines and criminalisation for those that don’t comply.”

“We would welcome any support you can give to prevent hostility towards disabled people.”

In a statement to the House of Commons, the Minister for Health, Matt Hancock announced that mask wearing would be compulsory in shops. He said: “Face coverings should be mandatory in shops and supermarkets. Under the new rules people who do not wear a face covering will face a fine of up to £100 in line with the sanction on public transport. And just as with public transport, children under eleven and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.”

Fazilet Hadi said: “We hope that this marks the start of a shift in messaging around face coverings. We strongly urge national media channels to do their bit to ensure that the general public is aware that disabled people do not necessarily have to wear a face covering. Disabled people are bearing the brunt of aggressive public challenging on masks. It’s been a tough three months for us in lockdown. Coming out to hostility from people who are unaware of the exemptions is not helping us to get back to leading full, independent lives.”

Read more here:

Journey assistance and exemption cards

Journey assistance and exemption cards can be downloaded from the Nexus website and printed to give passengers something to show staff when using public transport; the cards might be useful for people when they are in public places or shopping.


You can help

We can all help by spreading the word – it’s okay if some people are not able to wear a mask – there’s probably a very good reason they are not.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:

  • young children under the age of 11
  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to
  • to take medication
  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

Latest news