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Written on 14th August 2020 by

A few weeks ago I decided to take my elderly mother to a well-known DIY store that had a garden section. My mother loves flowers and this was a rare visit out for her since lockdown. Apart from her age my mother also has advanced dementia but looking at her you would not know this.

I explained to her that we now had to wear face masks in store. She refused. I then tried to make a game of it and suggested a pretty scarf. She refused again and I knew she would become upset if I pushed the matter.

I approached the security guide outside with some trepidation expecting that I would have to justify the fact that my mother was not wearing a mask. Fortunately we were let in without any fuss but I wish I had known about the sunflower lanyards which I mention later on in this article. My mother incidentally absolutely loves sunflowers!

The rules on face masks and coverings are confusing so hopefully this short article will help people to understand the rules. The aim is to especially help those with hidden disabilities such as autism, dementia, sensory issues and traumatic brain injuries.

The rules 

It is now compulsory in enclosed public spaces in England such as shops and banks as well as on public transport to wear a mask or face covering. This has now been extended to museums, galleries, cinemas, places of worship and premises providing legal or financial services such as a solicitors office. Public transport excludes cruise ships, school transport, taxis and private hire vehicles including Uber. Uber have made a decision as a company to ask customers to wear masks. However, they will not enforce this rule if a customer is exempt from having to wear a mask.

Fine 

If you do not wear a face covering you could be fined up to £100. This is reduced to £50 if you pay within 14 days. Police are expected to enforce this rule but would only be used as a last resort. 

Shop workers do not have to wear face coverings. This is because employees should continue to follow guidance from their employer based on a workplace health and safety assessment. Also, people working in shops may not necessarily be in close proximity to customers

Who's exempt?

  • Children under the age of 11
  • People with a physical or mental illness or disability
  • People for whom wearing a face covering or mask will cause severe distress
  • Anyone assisting someone who relies on lip reading to communicate

Can I get a medical exemption for face masks?

GPs are not giving these out but you can print off a face covering exemption card. On this site you will find cards for those with a learning disability, autism and special parent and child cards.  

Alternatively you can buy a sunflower lanyard. This is a card which discreetly indicates that a person has a hidden disability and a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering. These can be purchased from here.

These lanyards can also be obtained directly from the customer service desk of supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury. Simply ask!

As mentioned the rules are confusing but hopefully this will enable people with disabilities to access shops without fear of being denied access or being criticised for being unable to wear a mask.