Introduction

Face Masks and Disabilities – Fact Sheet

Face Masks and Disabilities – Fact Sheet

Does North Carolina require me to wear a face covering if it is not safe for me to wear?

No. According to Executive Order 147, workers, customers, and patrons with disabilities are not required to wear face coverings if they have a medical or behavioral reason for refusing to wear the face covering. They do not need to show proof of their condition/s to comply with the State’s executive order.

Can local laws require me to wear a mask if it is not safe for me to wear?

No. Cities and counties may impose stricter laws than the Governor’s Executive Order. However, under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, they must make reasonable modifications to their laws to accommodate people with disabilities who cannot safely wear masks.

Can medical providers or hospitals require me to wear a mask if it is not safe for me to wear?

They likely cannot but it may depend on your individual circumstances. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, and the North Carolina Persons with Disabilities Protection Act, medical providers and hospitals must make reasonable modifications to their policies to accommodate people with disabilities who cannot safely wear masks. The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) has recommended that face coverings should not be required for anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove the cover without assistance. Medical providers and hospitals may only refuse a reasonable modification if there are objective reasons that the policy change you request would fundamentally alter business operations or pose a direct threat to others. In some situations, a face shield may be a suitable alternative that is less restrictive than a mask.

Can a local business require me to wear a mask if it is not safe for me to wear?

They likely cannot. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the North Carolina Persons with Disabilities Protection Act, places of public accommodation must make reasonable modifications to their policies and procedures to accommodate people with disabilities who cannot safely wear masks. The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) has recommended that face coverings should not be required for anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove the cover without assistance. In some situations, a face shield may be a suitable alternative that is less restrictive than a mask. Medical providers and hospitals may only refuse a reasonable modification if there are objective reasons that the policy change you request would fundamentally alter business operations or pose a direct threat to others.

Are there cards that I can use to show that I am exempt from face mask requirements?

No. There is no government program that permits people to obtain a card to show that they are exempt from face mask requirements. These cards are misleading and unauthorized by federal and state governments.

May a business require me to provide documentation of my medical condition?

Medical documentation may only be required when it is reasonable under the circumstances. The Department of Justice has said that requiring “persons with disabilities to obtain medical documentation and carry it with them any time they seek to engage in ordinary activities of daily life . . . would be unnecessary, burdensome, and contrary to the spirit, intent, and mandates of the ADA.” This may mean that you do not need to provide documentation to request that a business excuse you from its face mask policy, though there is little guidance on this issue.