The Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL) sent letters to 22 Arizona Mayors, requesting that face mask proclamations include a specific exception for people with disabilities who are unable to wear face masks due to their disabilities. ACDL also wrote to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns requesting that this information be provided to its member municipalities.
While ACDL supports efforts to ensure that Arizona communities are protected from COVID-19 as much as possible, the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) apply to these actions by local governments. Safety measures such as social distancing, stay at home orders, and the wearing of face masks are now part of our daily lives.
However, there are many reasons why a person with a disability may not be able to wear a face mask.
Just a few examples include:
- people living with disabilities such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, asthma, or other disabilities that impact the ability to breathe;
- people living with disabilities that interfere with the ability to independently remove a face mask;
- people living with developmental disabilities or other cognitive disabilities who may be unable to tolerate wearing a face mask; and
- people living with disabilities such as severe anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder who may experience adverse reactions to wearing a face mask.
Several cities in Arizona, including Tucson, Scottsdale, Avondale, among others, have issued proclamations clearly noting exceptions for people with disabilities. For example, Tucson’s proclamation states: “Exceptions: A Face Covering is not required under the following circumstances:…(3) for any person who cannot wear a Face Covering because of a medical condition, mental health condition or developmental disability, or who is unable to remove the Face Covering without assistance.”
ACDL asks that any proclamations from other Arizona cities or towns include a similarly clear exception for those who are unable to wear a face mask due to their disability, and ensure they have access to goods and services without facing citations or other penalties.
ACDL is committed to continuing our services to protect and advocate for people with disabilities during this time. If you have been denied access to necessary services or feel that your legal rights have been violated due to COVID-19, please contact us at 1-800-927-2260.
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A copy of the letter can be found here.
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