'There will be a stigma': Advocates ask people to be kind to those unable to able to wear masks
TORONTO -- Advocacy groups are asking people to be considerate of those who are not able to wear face coverings for various reasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The call from organizations like Autism Canada and Asthma Canada comes after the federal and provincial government recently advised people to wear masks in situations where physical distancing is not possible.
“It’s going to be an issue for a lot of individuals with chronic conditions, whether it’s a cognitive issue or a breathing issue,” Vanessa Foran, President of Asthma Canada told CTV News Toronto.
“There will be a stigma attached … because I think there’s going to be a social responsibility to wearing masks in public and the public needs to understand that not everyone can wear a mask.”
She said that wearing a mask forces people to breath in and out “humid, hot breath” that can trigger asthma attacks and difficulty breathing.
“What we are recommending is that if you cannot social distance by six feet then you should wear a mask, but if it inhibits your breathing, then you should not wear a mask,” she said.
She said that there are some tips to help people with asthma wear a mask. She said it may help to practise wearing the mask for 20 minutes inside your home to make sure you comfortable.
“We also recommend that you plan your trips so you make sure you know exactly what you want in the grocery stores so you limit you time wearing the mask,” she said.
She said if someone who has asthma wear a mask, their breathing may be inhibited, they may feel shortness of breath and they may feel claustrophobic.
“So if it is difficult to breath then we recommend that you not wear a mask,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to empathize with what individuals are going through. Not everybody can wear a mask and so it’s important to understand.”
“You may have breathing issue that makes it difficult to wear a mask, you may have a cognitive issue that makes it difficult to wear a mask, so people need to be understanding, respectful of one another and kind.”
Dominique Payment, a family support representative with Autism Canada, told CTV News Toronto that several families have reached out since the governments made the recommendation this week.
“A lot of families have been calling in and asking for strategies on how to apply these masks on regular basis with their children who are on the spectrum,” she said.
She said that one parent called in and said that their child normally only sees masks on dentists and hospital staff and associate “unpleasant experiences” with them.
“It could be really challenging for a lot of families,” she said.
Payment said for people living with autism, masks can present a barrier and affect their senses. She advises families to get the child involved in the process of selecting a mask.
“Offer a child the opportunity to pick the fabric, or pick the pattern, or pick the colour,” she said. “This is how they are going to be able to feel comfortable knowing that it’s okay.”
“There are a lot of different ways that families can certainly get their child to wear this mask without it being too much of a challenge.”