themighty logo

People Are Using Fake 'Exemption Cards' to Get Out of Wearing Face Masks

At this point you’ve probably been made aware of the countless reasons people are giving to get out of wearing a face mask. Now, “Face Mask Exempt Cards” are making their way around the internet, citing the Americans With Disabilities Act as the reason people shouldn’t be “forced” to wear a mask. Many of these cards and flyers include a logo for the Freedom to Breathe Agency (FTBA), which is not a real government agency.

In fact, the real FTBA (which stands for Florida Transportation Builders’ Association) had to release a statement clarifying they weren’t associated with the FTBA that’s distributing the fake cards.

It has been brought to our attention that a “Face Mask Exempt Card” with our acronym has been circulating on social…

Posted by FTBA on Thursday, June 25, 2020

 

The main issue with is that a very important law is being abused. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was passed to allow individuals with disabilities to be provided with reasonable accommodations. These accommodations are to be provided in public areas and in the workplace to allow individuals with disabilities to be provided and granted the same service and rights as those living without a disability. These accommodations can include a store having to install a wheelchair ramp to allow it to be accessible, a job providing limited hours to accommodate an individual who may not be able to work full-time and allowing a service dog/miniature horse and their handler into an establishment despite having a no pet policy.

People have found a “loophole” in the ADA and are claiming they legally don’t have to wear a mask because the ADA says so. But let me just let you in on a little secret,

This is incorrect because there is no “loophole.”

The ADA was put in place to protect those of us with disabilities and/or medical conditions that require reasonable accommodation. Simply not wanting to wear a mask is not a disability or medical condition. If you do not have a disability or medical condition that hinders your ability to wear a mask and/or remove it, the ADA does not apply to you — it’s as simple as that.

The Department of Justice’s office in North Carolina released a statement regarding the increase of individuals claiming the ADA protects them from having to wear a mask, and has deemed these cards and flyers as fraudulent. A statement on ada.gov says:

The Department of Justice has been made aware of postings or flyers on the internet regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the use of face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which include the Department of Justice’s seal.

These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department.

The Department urges the public not to rely on the information contained in these postings and to visit ADA.gov for ADA information issued by the Department.

In an Issues Brief, the Southeast ADA Center listed some examples of real challenges people with disabilities might face when it comes to wearing a face mask:

  • “Individuals with respiratory disabilities such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cystic fibrosis may not be able to wear a face mask because of difficulty in or impaired breathing. People with respiratory disabilities should consult their own medical professional for advice about using face masks. The CDC also states that anyone who has trouble breathing should not wear a face mask.[7]
  • People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, or claustrophobia (an abnormal fear of being in enclosed or narrow places).[8] may feel afraid or terrified when wearing a face mask. These individuals may not be able to stay calm or function when wearing a face mask.
  • Some people with autism are sensitive to touch and texture. [9] Covering the nose and mouth with fabric can cause sensory overload, feelings of panic, and extreme anxiety.
  • A person who has cerebral palsy may have difficulty moving the small muscles in the hands, wrists, or fingers. Due to her limited mobility,  she may not be able to tie the strings or put the elastic loops of a face mask over the ears. This means that the individual may not be able to put on or remove a face mask without assistance.”

But, all of these conditions require reasonable accommodations (some examples are listed here). Allowing someone to enter a store without a mask is not a reasonable accommodation during a global pandemic. The people using these cards clearly don’t care about the ADA, but are looking for any excuse to not wear a mask. It makes it seem like the ADA is for getting out of something you don’t want to do, which totally waters down and disrespects the law’s purpose.

The best example I can give of this is the fake service dog issue. You’ve all seen that “service dog” with a vest and ID card barking, running in circles around their handler’s legs, riding in the cart, etc. All of which the ADA states are reason to ask the handler and dog to leave the establishment.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new All Things Service Dogs group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, The All Things Service Dogs group is for anyone who has a service dog or is looking to get one. We share our personal experiences, talk about daily challenges and more. Click to join.

I am a service dog handler to the best boy. I have been kicked out of stores and denied access to restaurants because the business owners automatically assume my dog is fake, when in fact, he is highly trained to perform multiple tasks for me. I’ve been asked to show ID for him, which I legally do not have to do, and will not do, because I am not required to have any kind of certification for him, per the ADA.

This is one common way people abuse the ADA, which can lead to the perception that service dogs aren’t actually necessary.

If you are not disabled and do not have a medical condition that hinders you from wearing a mask, the ADA does not apply to you.

Not wanting to wear a mask is not a disability or medical condition, and therefore the ADA does not apply to you.

Stop abusing the laws and resources the disability community has been given and granted with. Stop trying to get out of things you do not want to do, and hurting other individuals in the process. Stop abusing the system that was never put in place for you to begin with.

Related:

Follow this journey on Understanding Chaos.