Written by Kelly Cotter and Tim McCue
Wearing a mask or face covering is really important! It is a covering for your mouth and nose made of cloth or other material that makes it less likely that you will get or spread COVID-19 to others. However, wearing a mask is not a practical or equitable choice for some people, including some people with disabilities.
According to the Washington Department of Health people “with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering” are exempt from wearing a mask. If an individual with a disability cannot breathe, has a sensory limitation or cannot put on and take off a mask, there are other ways that they can protect themselves.
However, there are many different types of masks that may make them easier to use. For example, https://hsdc.org has tutorials to make deaf friendly masks, and you can find masks that are made of many different materials that are more comfortable to touch your face.
Here are some things that experts recommend to reduce your risk of getting COVID, especially if you are not able to wear a mask.
- Always practice social distancing. This means avoid coming closer than 6 feet to other people. The easiest way to imagine that distance is to think of two grocery store shopping carts end to end.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public space. If you cannot do this, cover your hands completely with hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Utilize home delivery or curbside pickup instead of entering stores or restaurants if possible. Throw away the outer bags or box and wash hands before consuming or using anything inside.
For our ASL friends the Washington Department of Health created this ASL friendly video series on COVID-19.
Here is a list of different types of masks.
- Medical Masks: this type of mask is for people at High Risk. People are at high risk if they are over 65, have a heart disease, or have a weak immune system.
- Fabric mask: this is what almost everyone else wears.
- There are a lot of variations for fabric masks; experiment with different fabrics to find what you like most.
- Could be made of pretty much any fabric (clothing, bandana, scarves, silk, cotton, etc). Just make sure the fabric is tightly woven.
- Masks come in many forms. You could have a band across each ear, a mask that has no band and just covers your entire face, or one band to go over both of your ears.
- Face Shield: These are usually worn by people in the medical field, but it could also be used for day to day life. This might be helpful for deaf people.
You can either buy a mask or make one at home. Here is a Youtube Tutorial on how to make one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YthnnqEEqBc