A disabled woman assisted by Kester Disability Rights has been paid £7,000 in compensation by a service provider who refused her access to a service because she was unable to wear a face mask.
The pay-out was achieved through negotiation as there was no dispute that access had been denied, or that the Claimant had a disability exemption. The only thing to be agreed was the amount of compensation, not whether it was due or not.
Refusing access to people unable to wear face coverings due to disability is direct discimination – no different to denying access to a black or gay person for example.
Disabled people are now routinely harassed in public for not wearing face coverings – frequently given the impression that confidential medical information must be publicly disclosed to justify exemption. The fact that shops and hospitality businesses routinely display “no mask no entry” signs shows how deeply disablist attitudes are embedded in society. If premises displayed “no blacks” or “no gays” notices there would be outrage.
Fortunately the official Government position does not endorse any of this as nobody exempt from wearing a mask is expected to go around justifying themselves. Saying “I’m exempt” is enough. If the response to that can be proved to be discriminatory then compensation is due.