On June 15th it became mandatory to wear face masks on public transport but it isn’t mandatory to wear masks anywhere else, only suggested we should.
Now what does this mean for the Autistic community? Especially for those who become extremely distressed with something covering part of their face.
At first the announcement said that children and disabled people were exempt but there was no clarification on what would be classed as an exempt disability. Immediately I saw people panicking in Autism groups online on what this would actually mean for them. I am one of those people. If I cover my mouth and nose I can’t breath and get extremely distressed so I haven’t been wearing a face mask this whole time. Instead I have limited the amount of time spent outside the house, especially in areas where there are other people. I have been washing my hands all the time as well. But being stuck inside the house most days and only seeing the same products in the same few available shops is starting to have a serious detrimental effect on my mental, and physical, health.
By the time of the announcement I hadn’t been on public transport since the beginning of March and I was really itching to go somewhere different. I know that doesn’t exactly qualify as essential travel but we’re not limited to essential travel now that non-essential shops are open. But should I be going out if I can’t wear a face mask?
Yes, yes I should. I am taking all the same precautions as I was before. I have not shown a single sign of having Corona and the chance of actually getting it is extremely low for me. But what should I do about the whole mask thing?
For starters there are print-out exempt cards doing the rounds of various social media platforms that can be shown when using transport. If you are exempt from using a face mask then no transport staff member has the right to challenge you about it or demand any form of proof.
I contacted the Department of Transport and received a reply from them that confirmed that you only have to tell transport staff you’re exempt, you don’t need anything to show it if you can’t get hold of an exempt card, you don’t need to provide proof and you have every right to use transport without being challenged, harassed or denied entry to transport.
I finally managed to get out the house recently and I went on a bus to a local town. This was a great way for me to be able to find out first hand what the experience would be like for an autistic adult trying to use an exempt card. The bus I got on to get to where I needed to go was the most uncomfortable for me. The bus driver simple said ‘mask’ to me (which I only knew because he gestured when he spoke and I guessed what word he said because I actually couldn’t hear him because of his own face mask. When I can’t hear I also can lip read at times but couldn’t do that in this case either.) so I showed him my exempt card. My card simply says ‘I am autistic and exempt from wearing a face mask. Thank you.’ and yet he scrutinised it and eventually let me on. An old couple got on the bus a minute later and, despite sitting a few seats in front of me, decided to spend the majority of the bus ride turning round and staring at me. Luckily on the bus ride back home the driver simply let me on and I wasn’t glared at by anyone.
So, if you can’t wear a mask for any reason you can use an exempt card to use public transport or you can simply tell them you’re exempt. And you have as much right as anyone else to go out if you need, or want, to.
I’m going to start linking the weeks YouTube videos at the bottom of each blog post as well so it’s easier for you guys to find the things I have been upto during the week.
Saturday video on stimming – https://youtu.be/vtGBqJEBpcg
Wednesday vlog: Day in My Life – https://youtu.be/xXUaCq7w2Kk