Pro-maskers, anti-maskers and hidden disabilities

The pro-mask army 

A video published by a parent earlier this week to TikTok shows a girl being refused entry into her school by the headmaster for not wearing a face covering. The parent then turns to her daughter to ask her to wear her exemption lanyard and wrist bracelet. These were Hidden Disabilities’ Sunflower scheme products, which indicate some form of hidden disability and therefore an exemption to the rules on the wearing of a face covering. Yet still, the girl is refused entry into school. 

Vigilante videos across social media show quite often aggressive and abusive confrontation of those that are without a face covering on public transport, shops or other public area, demanding that the person wear a face covering and vilify them for not doing so.

Even vigilantes using a ‘moderate, non-aggressive tone’ towards those without a face covering, by merely publishing these videos to social media – seek to vilify people. 

Tuning into LBC, even the more sensible of radio presenters fail to challenge those that call in to express their outrage of those that refuse to wear a face covering, calling for prison sentences and more vigilante action towards these people. 

When face-coverings were first mandated, shocking footage emerged showing severe abuse towards the sister of a deaf person who removed her face-covering so that she was able to communicate with her sister. 

The anti-maskers 

This then brings me on to the outright selfishness of anti-maskers and those that seek at any and every turn to abuse the ‘exemptions’ to wearing a face-covering. 

A Delta Airlines crew member was physically attacked for asking a passenger to wear a face-covering. 

The ‘C.U.N.T award’ winning nation’s bigot, Katie Hopkins, was reported to have refused to wear a face-covering during a flight from Los Angeles to London.

Then you have the ample amount of individuals that just simply cannot be bothered to wear a face-covering and when confronted or asked to do so, claim 

“I’m exempt”

Which brings me to… Genuine exemptions. Those with some form of physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability; those who suffer from significant distress by putting on, wearing or removing a face covering; those (as described above) that remove their face-covering so that they are able to speak to or communicate with someone who relies on lip-reading. 

These are the people who suffer from both the ‘pro-mask army’ as well as the ‘anti-maskers’. They wrongfully find themselves libelled, abused and on social media videos; or, their disability becomes misunderstood and disbelieved because of the selfish actions of those that refuse to put the safety of their fellow citizens before their own bigotry. 

Shambles in implementation

The fact that a printable exemption card is available on the Gov website, without any checks or balances, makes a mockery of the law brought in to mandate the wearing of face-coverings. It easily opens the law to abuse and makes the enforcement and compliance of the law very difficult. There’s no need for issuance by a certified medical practitioner nor any proof required to carry a card. 

Yet, I believe the real problem comes down to an inherent ignorance amongst the British public of various medical conditions and hidden disabilities, which also demonstrates an ignorance of the Equality Act (2010), which is arguably breached in examples such as the one given above about the girl being refused entry into school, or in examples of people with disabilities being refused service or access to places for not wearing a face-covering despite having a genuine exemption.

As somebody who suffers from anxiety and depressive disorder myself and technically being exempt from wearing a face-covering under the rules, I would feel even more terrified to not wear a face-covering and end up abused and on a social media video than actually just fight through it and wear a mask. The result is that – for the past six months, I have had no choice but to avoid going into supermarkets or anywhere that I have to wear a face-mask for longer than just a few minutes, as I’m simply just not able to stay relaxed with one on. 

Putting aside my own somewhat milder example, an autistic caller to James O’Brien’s show on LBC a few weeks ago burst into tears outlining how terrified she is to go outside. Another caller outlined how his father who has a chronic lung-disease was abused for going out with breathing apparatus. 

Quite simply, what the last few months really has shown, especially to those with hidden disabilities – is an inherent misunderstanding amongst the British public of hidden disabilities, illnesses and neurological disorders. Sadly, it has also shown a lack of empathy for fellow citizens and a state of distrust combined with selfish behaviour lacking kindness.

I also believe that media discourse and a militant enforcement based approach is where another part of problem lies. To get the British public to ‘behave’, the government believe that an enforcement-based approach is necessary;  the contrast in Scandinavian countries like Sweden is evident – where the public are trusted and far more likely to follow public-health advice based on mutual trust and respect. Yet, the government have grossly misunderstood the public, as actually, there was overwhelming compliance to rules during the first lockdown. It’s the lack of clarity and leadership that results in the problems later on, as well as an utter failure to take solid action to counter the pandemic by the government that has inevitably resulted in blame being conveniently transferred from politician…to fellow citizen.

Some people – just won’t do as they’re told, especially if the threat of fines is enforced upon them; they’ll find any and every way to flout the rules. Others – become militant about enforcement and despite their best intention, fail to remember that…there genuinely are those with exemptions and it’s important to not let those that decide to abuse exemptions, to carry-over as abuse towards genuine exemptions. 

However, why is it so difficult for us all to just…be kind to each-other?

-SM

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