Disability Advocates to Businesses: It’s Possible to Follow Mask Orders and the ADA

Jul 28, 2020 | Member News

Masks keep everyone safe and reasonable accommodations still provide access.

The Arc of Larimer County and Disabled Resource Services (DRS) are reminding businesses to explore reasonable accommodations for serving guests with disabilities during the mask order. The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, does not require businesses to automatically admit someone who is not wearing a mask because of a disability. However, the ADA does require that reasonable accommodations be made in serving people with disabilities.

“Not everyone with a disability can wear a mask,” says J. Patrick Hackney, JD, Executive Director of The Arc of Larimer County. “Businesses should get creative in balancing out keeping customers and employees safe.”

With fake mask exemption cards circulating, it can be hard for a business to know what to do. There is no central list of accepted reasonable accommodations, as the accommodation needs to be personalized to the person and situation. However, there are some accommodations that can help many people with disabilities who cannot wear a mask, such as offering free curbside pick-up, delivery, phone orders, and/or online orders.

The Arc of Larimer County recommends that each business has a clear policy in place and that the policy is clearly communicated to all employees. “Talk in advance about what to do if

someone without a mask tries to enter your place of business. Let employees know what some options are to provide a reasonable accommodation to that potential customer,” says Hackney.

Joan LaBelle, Executive Director of DRS, echoes Hackney’s remarks, “As a person with a disability, I understand firsthand the difficulties, and sometimes impossibility, of wearing a mask. The consumers we serve understand that as well. We are also committed to the safety of everyone in our community and fully support the use of face masks and wear them and ask those receiving services to also wear them.”

The Arc of Larimer County has been made aware that some people may state that they have a disability not because they have a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, but because they do not want to wear a mask. This behavior causes harm. Wearing a mask is important to protect others in the place of business. When someone who can wear a mask chooses not to, that’s putting everyone else at risk – including people with disabilities. “We have been dismayed at the number of people who are willing to fake a disability in order to get around the mask order,” says Hackney. “The ADA was passed 30 years ago to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities. These sorts of behaviors exploit that law and make it harder for people with disabilities to get needed accommodations. If you are doing this please stop.”

Finally, employers who are seeking information on how to accommodate an employee who cannot wear a mask can visit The Job Accommodation Network at askjan.org for free help.

About The Arc of Larimer County

The Arc of Larimer County is an advocacy agency dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The Arc of Larimer County works to ensure that all individuals have equal access and are included in every aspect of community life. The Arc of Larimer County believes that the entire community gains when people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are fully included. For more information on The Arc of Larimer County, visit www.TheArcOfLarimerCounty.org.

About Disabled Resource Services

Disabled Resource Services (DRS) is a Colorado non-profit agency serving Larimer and Jackson counties and is a certified Center for Independent Living. Focused on helping people with all types of disabilities gain, regain, or maintain their independence, DRS believes that all people with disabilities should be supported to achieve their maximum level of independence at home and in the community. For more information on Disabled Resource Services, please visit www.disabledresourceservices.org.