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Why Refusing to Wear a Mask Is Not ADA Protected

A close up photo of a woman wearing a face mask and surgical hair covering
We’re all living through COVID-19 and some of us are more vulnerable than others. I’m hearing more and more accounts of individuals claiming their “access rights” under the ADA are being violated because they refuse to put on a mask.

So to set the record straight and as a person who has a child with multiple disabilities, I am going to explain the 99.9% of those who won’t wear a mask are not entitled to accuse businesses of violating the “ADA”.

If a person with a disability is not able to wear a face mask because of their disability, businesses can consider REASONABLE modifications to the face mask policy (so they continue to protect others) but also accommodate the person with the disability. The accommodations enable a person to participate in, or benefit from, the programs offered or goods and services that are provided while not jeopardizing others in the midst of a public health crisis.

A REASONABLE modification means changing the business policies, practices, and /or procedures, IF NEEDED, to provide goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to an individual with a disability.

The requirement to modify a policy, practice, or procedure does NOT include individuals WITHOUT disabilities, as those without a disability are NOT protected under the ADA. So, when the self-entitled "Karens" OR "Kens" of the world enter a place of business and tell you it is their right not to wear a mask under the ADA, ask this allowed question, “Do you have a disability that prevents you from wearing a mask.”
If they say yes, tell them you are happy to modify your policy to accommodate their shopping. However, there are a multitude of ways to accommodate them (under the ADA) that does not include allowing them to wander throughout the store or business without a face-covering.

Reasonable modifications to the policy of wearing a face mask:

  • Allowing a person to wear a scarf, or loose face covering, or FULL-FACE SHIELD instead of a face mask; (If you identify as a person with a disability who cannot wear a face-mask, buy yourself a full-face shield;

  • Allow customers to order online with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery;

  • Allow customers to order by phone with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;

  • Shop for the customer;

  • Allow a person to wait in their car for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted;

  • Offer appointments by telephone or video calls.

I would bet that most of the anti-wearing face-maskers do not identify as a person with a disability in their place of employment.

The excuse (being a person living with a disability) is a slap in the face toward people who DO live daily with a disability. False claims of disability hurt those with a disability.

The science is clear. Studies show us that viral load peaks in the days before symptoms begin and that speaking is enough to expel virus-carrying droplets. Wearing a mask shows respect for others but also for yourself.

In Summary

What most of these entitled people don't get even if they do have a disability is that their "disability rights" do not outweigh the rights of others; others who may have a compromised immune system or be involved in cancer treatment or live with a vulnerable adult or child. I would urge everyone to think long and hard about personal motivation, acts of kindness to others, and self-respect.