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Why Refusing to Wear a Mask Is Not ADA Protected

A close up photo of a woman wearing a face mask and surgical hair covering
We’re all living through COVID-19 and some of us are more vulnerable than others. I’m hearing more and more accounts of individuals claiming their “access rights” under the ADA are being violated because they refuse to put on a mask.

So to set the record straight and as a person who has a child with multiple disabilities, I am going to explain the 99.9% of those who won’t wear a mask are not entitled to accuse businesses of violating the “ADA”.

If a person with a disability is not able to wear a face mask because of their disability, businesses can consider REASONABLE modifications to the face mask policy (so they continue to protect others) but also accommodate the person with the disability. The accommodations enable a person to participate in, or benefit from, the programs offered or goods and services that are provided while not jeopardizing others in the midst of a public health crisis.

A REASONABLE modification means changing the business policies, practices, and /or procedures, IF NEEDED, to provide goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to an individual with a disability.

The requirement to modify a policy, practice, or procedure does NOT include individuals WITHOUT disabilities, as those without a disability are NOT protected under the ADA. So, when the self-entitled "Karens" OR "Kens" of the world enter a place of business and tell you it is their right not to wear a mask under the ADA, ask this allowed question, “Do you have a disability that prevents you from wearing a mask.”
If they say yes, tell them you are happy to modify your policy to accommodate their shopping. However, there are a multitude of ways to accommodate them (under the ADA) that does not include allowing them to wander throughout the store or business without a face-covering.

Reasonable modifications to the policy of wearing a face mask:

  • Allowing a person to wear a scarf, or loose face covering, or FULL-FACE SHIELD instead of a face mask; (If you identify as a person with a disability who cannot wear a face-mask, buy yourself a full-face shield;

  • Allow customers to order online with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery;

  • Allow customers to order by phone with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;

  • Shop for the customer;

  • Allow a person to wait in their car for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted;

  • Offer appointments by telephone or video calls.

I would bet that most of the anti-wearing face-maskers do not identify as a person with a disability in their place of employment.

The excuse (being a person living with a disability) is a slap in the face toward people who DO live daily with a disability. False claims of disability hurt those with a disability.

The science is clear. Studies show us that viral load peaks in the days before symptoms begin and that speaking is enough to expel virus-carrying droplets. Wearing a mask shows respect for others but also for yourself.

In Summary

What most of these entitled people don't get even if they do have a disability is that their "disability rights" do not outweigh the rights of others; others who may have a compromised immune system or be involved in cancer treatment or live with a vulnerable adult or child. I would urge everyone to think long and hard about personal motivation, acts of kindness to others, and self-respect.


ADA Resources

ADA & Disability History

ADA Timeline

Learn more about the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through this historical timeline from the ADA National Network. 

ADA Highlights - George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Museum

This website highlights the ADA, its history, and provides an ADA Lesson Plan, quotes from President Bush about the ADA, and other historical resources.

ADA Exhibit - Presidential Timeline

This virtual exhibit features the ADA as a key piece of legislation signed during President Bush's administration and highlights other related events and issues.

EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America

This virtual exhibit from the National Museum of American History explores the history of disability through the material record of the people who lived it from stereotypes to laws, technology and issues in everyday home life for people with disabilities — How the story unfolds depends on how you, the visitor, shuffle it. Featuring images documenting more than 50-years worth of objects and stories collected by the Smithsonian, the exhibit is the museum’s first to be presented exclusively online which they plan to build upon with additions and frequent updates as well as a vibrant social media presence.

Equality of Opportunity: The Making of the Americans with Disabilities Act - National Council on Disability

Future historians will come to view the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 as one of the most formative pieces of American social policy legislation in the 20th century. This publication from the National Council on Disability (NCD) reminds us of our past and urges us to press on with renewed and united sense of purpose to deliver on the ADA's legacy, hope, and promise.

General ADA Resources

ADA Service Dog

Revised (2010) regulations for service dogs. Also "Dogs with Jobs" an overview of different kinds of working dogs.

ADA Questions and Answers (Q&A) Booklet

This collaborative publication by the ADA National Network provides answers to common questions on the ADA for employment, state and local government, public accommodations and also offers a quick contact reference for federal agencies and other organizations that provide information about the ADA and informal guidance in understanding and complying with the ADA.

Frequently Asked Questions about the ADA

Find answers to common questions on the ADA and related disability topics — search by keyword, audience and topics. This is a collaborative initiative of the ADA National Network. 

ADA Title II & III Regulations Fact Sheet Series (English) (Español)

The U.S. Department of Justice revised the ADA Title II and Title III regulations. These regulations amend the DOJ Title II requirements for State and Local Governments and Title III requirements for Places of Public Accommodation. Many of the regulations took effect March 15, 2011 with some requirements going into effect March 15, 2012. The ADA National Network developed these Fact Sheets to give guidance on specific changes and an overview of revised regulations by topic.

ADA Anniversary Tool Kit

A tool kit of informative materials on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for use throughout the year in your celebration of the ADA Anniversary - July 26. This is a collaborative initiative of the ADA National Network hosted by the Southeast ADA Center.

ADA Publications and Fact Sheets from the ADA National Network

Informational materials about the ADA and related disability topics; some materials are also available in Spanish. This is a collaborative initiative of the ADA National Network. 

ADA Web Search Portal

This portal provides a focused search of important websites that contain information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and connects individuals with high quality information about the ADA and to assist individuals in answering ADA questions. This is a collaborative initiative of the ADA National Network. 

ADA Quiz Book, 4th Edition

A comprehensive ADA training tool for individual study or group trainings. The 105 pages and 45 activities include quizzes, puzzles and case studies, expanded to reflect recent changes in the ADA. Order and pay online from Meeting the Challenge.

ADA Systematic Review

Research on the ADA includes many different research questions and methods, covers numerous topic areas, and impacts diverse groups of people. Because of this broad range of research, policy makers and researchers are often unsure about the true impact of the ADA. To address this uncertainty, the University of Illinois at Chicago is conducting a three-stage review of the ADA in collaboration with the ADA National Network - National ADA Knowledge Translation Center Project. The first stage of the project is a Scoping Review Summary and a Technical Report of the Scoping Review which involves gathering scientific research and search terms on the ADA.

Ten Things You Need to Know about the ADA

The July 2015 issue of the quarterly newsletter, Disability Connection, from summarizes ten need-to-knows about the ADA.

Technology Access Resources

Accessible Tech - For Accessible Technology In The Workplace

A web portal designed to build a partnership between the disability and business communities to promote full and unrestricted participation in society for persons with disabilities through awareness of technology that is accessible to all. This initiative of the ADA National Network is hosted by the Pacific ADA Center with support from the Great Lakes ADA Center and Mid-Atlantic ADA Center.

Disability Law & Policy Resources

ADA Case Law Database

A comprehensive database tool that tracks major decisions and summarizes the key issues pertaining to significant rulings under the Employment (Title I), Local and State Government (Title II) and Places of Public Accommodations (Title III) provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) searchable by disability type, discrimination issue, jurisdiction and remedy. This collaborative initiative of the ADA National Network hosted by the Great Lakes ADA Center.

ADA Disability Law Handbook

A broad overview of the rights and obligations under federal disability laws available online in web or PDF format. This is a collaborative publication by the Southwest ADA Center and ADA National Network.

Report on the Impact of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) Released by National Council on Disability

The National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, released a report in July 2013 titled “A Promising Start: Preliminary Analysis of Court Decisions Under the ADA Amendments Act,” which reviews the court decisions that have been rendered to date applying the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) and reveals significant improvements in how courts are interpreting protections intended for coverage under the ADA.

Business & ADA Resources

Accessible Meetings, Events, and Conferences Guide

This guide will help you navigate, plan, and create successful, inclusive meetings, events and conferences. Features include: plan a meeting, attend a meeting, speakers/presenters tips, training materials, employers guide, operations, publications, and resources. This guide from the Hospitality and Disability initiative of the ADA National Network is hosted by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, in collaboration with TransCen, Inc.- Career and Workforce Development.

Hospitality and Disability Initiative

A web portal designed to promote accessibility and opportunity for people with disabilities in the hospitality industry. Materials, resources, and training aim to help hospitality businesses expand their market share by effectively reaching and serving customers with disabilities, and are also designed to assist lodging and food service employers recruit, hire, and retain qualified workers with disabilities. This initiative of the ADA National Network is hosted by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, in collaboration with TransCen, Inc.- Career and Workforce Development.

Employment & ADA Resources

Just-in-Time Toolkit for Managers: Building a Disability-Inclusive Workforce

This toolkit is divided into ten topics based on a disability issue that managers typically encounter in the workplace. Each topic has been designed to be used in about five minutes. If you choose, each topic also contains links to test your knowledge, print a one-page checklist, and pursue further resources. This is a collaborative initiative of the Northeast ADA Center, a member of the ADA National Network and a program of the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University.

Government & ADA Resources