The ADA and face mask policies

Updated: Jul. 8, 2020 at 6:19 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - If you have a disability that prevents you from wearing a face covering you might be wondering about your rights since the Madison County mask order went into effect Tuesday night.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not have any rules that address the required use of face masks by the government or private business owners.

However, if a person with a disability is not able to wear a face mask, reasonable modifications must be made so the person with the disability can participate in or benefit from the services provided.

A reasonable modification means changing policies, practices, and procedures, if needed to accommodate an individual with a disability.

Some example are:

  • Allow a person to wear a scarf, loose face covering, or full face shield instead of a face mask;
  • Allow customers to order online with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
  • Allow customers to order by phone with curb-side pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
  • Allow a person to wait in a car for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted; or
  • Offer appointments by telephone or video calls.

Madison City Mayor said communication in these types of situations are key. It can be between the customer and business owner or customer and law enforcement officer. “We are not out hunting folks who aren’t wearing masks,” said Paul Finley. “The biggest thing is just communicating. If they are in a situation like that, our officers if called and they would have to be called on that, would easily be able to listen to what they say and understand that and move forward. Again, we are not out there as mask police, we are out there to try and help a community through this situation.”

At this time, the U.S. Department of Justice has not provided guidance if a business can or cannot ask for medical documentation about a person's inability to wear a mask due to a disability.

In similar situations, the U.S. Department of Justice has not allowed asking for documentation in brief interactions like the grocery store. However, sometimes proof is required at hospitals or medical offices because a person who is not wearing a mask may infect other people who are sick.

There are cards and other documents bearing the Department of Justice seal that claim people are exempt from face mask requirements.

Those documents are fraudulent.

The ADA does not have a blanket exemption for those with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.

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