With lockdowns in force across the UK, we are reminding supermarkets of their duty to their disabled customers and the importance of exemptions around face coverings. This week our chief executive, Caroline Stevens, wrote to supermarkets to ask them to make sure they’re considering the needs of their autistic customers in their plans and that they’re supporting staff to understand the exemptions, particularly around hidden disabilities.
Caroline said: “The Government’s facemask exemptions include some autistic children and adults who cannot wear a face covering safely, whether because they have extreme sensitivities that makes it feel like they’re being smothered or they don’t understand the rule and would be constantly trying to remove their mask.
“For many autistic people, the threat of being challenged or even abused for not wearing a facemask could be so anxiety provoking that it might prevent them from even attempting to visit the supermarket in the first place. Being autistic does not place a person on the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ list, which would enable them to get priority delivery slots, so this situation could genuinely risk leaving some vulnerable autistic people unable to get essential food and provisions.
"As the UK’s leading charity for autistic people and their families, and on behalf of those autistic people across the UK, we hope supermarkets are able to offer some assurance that autistic people who are unable to wear masks will be considered in their plans. We know that this could make a real and positive difference during this difficult and challenging time.”
Not everyone can wear a face covering. If you want to try, but are unsure or have found it difficult, take a look at these tips on wearing masks from our autistic colleagues.
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