Eastbourne disability group says people are facing ‘mask discrimination’

The subject of mask discrimination for disabled people was brought up in a recent letter sent to the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

A spokesperson for Eastbourne Access Group said, “We know that some disabled people and their carers are concerned about being challenged to show an exemption and also some disabled people with hidden impairments are reluctant to wear the sunflower lanyards as they may choose not be labelled as ‘disabled’.

“Members of the public might be concerned about misuse of exemptions but it has proved impossible for many people with complex impairments such as those with respiratory conditions and visual impairment to obtain medical letters to prove an exemption.”

The letter, sent by Disability Rights UK (DR), was forwarded to Sussex Police inspector Rachel Barrow.

Inspector Barrow said, “I would like to reassure the access group and your members that this is not what we do in Sussex and that our officers are clear on the government guidance.

“Should you, or any member of the public experience something different, I would urge them to contact Sussex Police or myself directly and I would be happy to follow up to ensure the guidance is followed.”

The letter said police officers are still ‘wrongly claiming’ that disabled people must carry paperwork to prove exemption from wearing face masks. It outlines concerns about the treatment of people who are legally exempt from the requirement to wear face coverings and says there is ‘widespread confusion’ among police officers.

A DR survey last year found that 60 per cent of disabled people ‘feared being challenged if they did not wear a mask’.

Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at DR, said, “Disabled people who can’t wear face coverings already experience high levels of anxiety and have faced hostility from members of the public.

“It is important that police officers demonstrate understanding and uphold the exemptions set out in the regulations.”