Coronavirus: information and updates

Disabled passengers could be unfairly accused over face covering rules

As new government regulations come into force today making it mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport, it is important to recognise that for some disabled this will be impossible.

It’s also vital that disabled people are aware that exemptions apply if you would struggle to wear a mask.For example you have breathing problems or you’re travelling with someone who needs to lip read, or wearing a face mask may cause you to become distressed because of a mental health problem, autism or a skin condition.

It’s welcome that such barriers have been identified in the regulations released on Sunday as ‘reasonable excuses’ for not wearing a face covering, but we are concerned about what will happen in reality on buses and trains across the country.

There is a real risk that transport staff, British Transport Police or passengers may unfairly accuse disabled people who are legitimately not wearing face coverings of not doing their bit.

Disabled people have often felt forgotten during the pandemic, and are now contending with the added fear that they may be fined or face new risks of abuse when legitimately using public transport.

There must be clear communication by travel operators to their staff and customers that some disabled people are exempt from the new rules and that they should be treated with respect when travelling.

We are also highly concerned that the government’s guidance does not cover taxis and private hire vehicles allowing them to take their own approach to face coverings.

Many disabled people rely on taxis for essential journeys because public transport isn’t always accessible.

Taxi companies must introduce policies that are fair and flexible or they could potentially be breaching the Equality Act.

Have you experienced problems with the new regulations? Share your experiences with Scope's media team by emailing pressoffice@scope.org.uk

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