In the UK, people diagnosed with ataxia have expressed concern due to the mandatory wearing of Face Masks in shops etc. AtaxiaUK asked for comments, the following is copied from AtaxiaUK. To see a link to an exemption card, scroll down to the last 3 links, and click on the 2nd one.
Many thanks for all the comments, either left on social media or via private email to me, Shana and Harriet via HealthUnlocked expressing your experiences and concerns about wearing face coverings/masks. All were very valuable and helpful.
Instead of including all the individual responses we have identified six main themes from within the comments:
• I have ataxia and wearing a face covering has no effect on my symptoms.
• I have ataxia and wearing a face covering does affect my symptoms, but I am keen to wear one for the safety of others.
• I have ataxia and wearing a face covering affects my ability to look down at the ground when I am walking, making my balance worse and my risk of falling higher. For this reason, I am concerned about wearing a face covering.
• I have ataxia and wearing a face covering negatively impacts my communication with others, as my speech is slurred and it makes it more difficult for people to understand me. For this reason I am concerned about wearing a face covering.
• I have ataxia and wearing a face covering makes breathing more difficult and causes me to become hot, therefore negatively impacting my balance and ability to walk. For this reason, I am concerned about wearing a face covering.
• I have ataxia and a face covering is difficult to put on due to co-ordination difficulties and tremors in arms/hands. For this reason, I am concerned about wearing a face covering.
From the above it can be seen that wearing a face covering doesn’t exacerbate the symptoms of some people with ataxia; wearing a face covering does exacerbate the symptoms of some with ataxia to the point they are reluctant to wear one and some of these people chose not to go to environments where they are required; and for others with ataxia, although their symptoms are exacerbated, they hold the view that irrespective of this they want to wear a face covering for the protection of others.
I want to stress that it isn’t Ataxia UK’s role to question the timing or the science of the effectiveness of wearing face coverings, but rather to ensure that all Friends of Ataxia UK understand government guidance in order that they feel as supported and safe as possible.
In England it is currently compulsory to wear a face covering when travelling on public transport, and from Friday 24th July it will be compulsory to wear a face covering in shops and supermarkets.
In Scotland it is currently compulsory to wear a face covering when travelling on public transport and in shops and supermarkets.
At the time of writing it is not currently compulsory to wear a face covering in Wales. However, it will be mandatory to wear a face covering in Wales on public transport from Monday 27th July.
In Northern Ireland it is currently compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport.
However, each of the governments in the UK and Northern Ireland recognise that it is not possible for everyone to wear a face covering. The links below state the guidance for each country-
You can see from all the above links that each government has not listed specific disorders or conditions that are exempt from wearing a face covering, but rather how a disorder/condition affects the individual.
As can be seen from our research some people with ataxia can wear a face covering, others with ataxia cannot. It completely depends on your individual symptoms and how ataxia affects you. It is vital to recognise that not everyone can wear a face covering and be respectful of others views, opinions and situations at all times.
It is necessary for everbody to read the government guidance for the country they live in and decide themselves whether they are exempt. Even if you are exempt you can still choose to wear a face covering.
There is no requirement to obtain evidence in the form of a letter from a doctor or government that you are exempt. If you have a condition which means you cannot wear a face covering you need only advise if asked that you cannot wear a face covering because you are exempt for one of the reasons listed in the government guidance.