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Disabled people exempt from transport face covering rules

17 June 2020

New rules have come into force which require non-disabled members of the public to wear face coverings in some public places, including on public transport. Those with impairments that prevent them from wearing masks are exempt, as are children under the age of 11. The current list of impairments which allows exemption includes:

  • Breathing Difficulty/Respiratory
  • Conditions affecting dexterity
  • Mental Health condition or panic disorders
  • Autism
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Visual impairment – including restricted field of view if the mask would make this worse
  • Impairments that make it difficult to put on or take off face coverings (such as skin conditions)
  • Dementia
  • Where someone can wear a mask for some of the journey but might need to take it off
  • Carers or someone who is with someone that relies on lip reading
  • If medication / eating is essential during a journey

DR UK Ambassador and transport expert Stephen Brookes said: “All areas of feedback from various sensory and mental health organisations have indicated that the rail industry (as well as others) needs to step back and look at the issues of better consistency of understanding on face covering policy on stations and on train services. It is vital to recognise that there are many who cannot access communications using them and some elements of Autism and mental health conditions preclude their safe use.”

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “We know that many disabled people are fearful of being challenged by transport staff and members of the public if they cannot wear face coverings. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the public is clear that there are exemptions, what those exemptions are, and why they are in place.”

The rules do not yet cover private hire vehicles. Uber has published guidance which says it will allow passengers who cannot wear a face covering to travel: https://www.uber.com/en-GB/blog/face-covering-policy/

The government guidance can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers

Passenger assistance for train journeys is continuing to operate as normal.

This story was amended on 17 June. It previously stated that Uber had indicated that it would not take passengers without face coverings and that the CEOs of disability organisations had written to it with their concerns.