(WKBN) – Many people are wondering if face masks are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
There are some exceptions to wearing a face mask in Ohio, and the ADA also addresses some stipulations for those with disabilities, but the federal ADA guidelines do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the CDC guidelines and local public health authorities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released a publication titled Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the American with Disabilities Act, which offers some guidelines for employers and workers.
In Ohio, the face mask order only requires those 10 years old or older to wear a face covering. Additional exclusions include:
- Those with a medical condition or a disability or those communicating with someone with a disability;
- Those who are actively exercising or playing sports;
- Those who are officiants at religious services;
- Those who are actively involved in public safety; or
- Those who are actively eating or drinking.
Those exemptions only apply to public spaces. Private sector rules could be different, but the ADA does provide some protections in that reasonable accommodations must be made for those with disabilities. Some of those accommodations could be services such as curbside pickup and special shopping hours.
According to the Department of Justice, “The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.”
Easterseals of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties works with people with disabilities. They say the new rules and regulations have created an uphill battle for some of their clients.
“Some of our clients with autism having a mask on their face, the touch of the fabric, all those things can create some challenges, and we are here to make sure that the community can support the rights and the guidelines for the ADA and our clients,” said Maureen Pusch, spokesperson for Easterseals.
Pusch said businesses should continually look for ways to serve the population with disabilities, not just during a pandemic.
“We don’t know how long we are going to be living with this pandemic, and quite frankly, I think the world is changing every day to where we need to find ways to service everybody so those would be my recommendations right off the bat,” Pusch said.