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Disability Action Center NW

Local disability activists warn about fake ADA mask cards circulating online

SPOKANE, Wash,. – Officials and local disability activists are warning about fake cards that attempt to use the Americans with Disabilities Act to get out of wearing masks in businesses.

At least half a dozen versions of the cards are being passed around online. Some have the U.S. Department of Justice seal on them. The cards claim the holder doesn’t have to wear a face mask for health reasons under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and warn businesses that they can be fined many thousands of dollars for violating it.

Disability Action Center Spokane youth project coordinator and Access 4 All Spokane media executive Mels Felton said the cards aren’t real. Furthermore, they said using these cards complicates life for people with disabilities that truly prevent them from wearing masks.

“It makes it more difficult when we are actually fighting for our rights to be respected,” Felton said.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice posted an alert about the cards, saying they aren’t from or approved by the office. The Washington Emergency Management Division also called out the cards in a Facebook post. The EMD said under the real ADA, businesses need to make reasonable accommodations for people who genuinely can’t wear masks for health reasons.

“A reasonable accommodation isn’t ‘oh, I’m going to let that person into my store without a mask,'” Felton said. “It’s ‘hey, can I get your list and I will do the shopping for you and I’ll bring it out. We won’t charge you extra for the curbside pickup.'”

The EMD said other examples of reasonable accommodations include swapping out a tight face mask for a loose scarf or using phone and video calls instead of face-to-face meetings.

Felton said their family has lost several people they know to COVID-19, and wants to remind the public that we wear masks to protect each other from ourselves. Felton compared pretending to have a disability to avoid wearing a mask to crying wolf, and said these selfish choices affect the entire disability community.

“When people who are not disabled go out and claim that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects them, and [are] using it kind of like this Monopoly get out of jail free card for wearing a mask, that delegitimizes the disability justice movement,” Felton said.

Spokane-area businesses that want to know more about reasonable accommodations and serving people with disabilities that keep them from wearing masks are encouraged to contact Access 4 All Spokane and the Disability Action Center.