Face mask exemptions

Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment) which is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks, such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings.

They are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).

For those who can wear face coverings, they must follow the government’s guidance on face coverings.

However some people have a good reason for not wearing a face covering and, in response to concerns expressed by disability groups nationally, the government has produced exemption cards for people to carry).

Those who are hard of hearing or deafened people rely on lipreading which is completely covered by masks, therefore making conversations incredibly difficult to understand. Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) have different lip-reading skills, but all rely on mouth patterns and the whole face for visual clues, including tone of voice, emotions and affirmations.

As a result, there is the potential for a complete communication breakdown between yourselves and a deaf person, which could leave them feeling emotionally distressed, upset, frustrated and further isolated. However, there are some simple adjustments you can make to aid communication such as:

  • if you are able to maintain the recommended social distance and remove the mask
  • using an alternative mask with a clear window or use a face shield (please note, some of these steam up, making visibility difficult)
  • having either paper and pen or a small whiteboard and pen nearby and ready to use
  • using gestures where possible
  • using the voice recognition on your phone alongside a ‘notes’ application or use a voice recognition transcribing app.

For those in medical settings with a BSL user, use BSL Health Access via Interpreter Now .

Any users BSL who have appointments in advance, a qualified and registered BSL/English interpreter must be booked either in person or remotely.

For more information, you can contact the KCC Sensory Services Team on 03000 418100. Alternatively, please text via SMS on 07920 154 315, stating how you would like us to contact you (e.g. BSL via facetime etc).