The worrying part, though, is that even as anti-maskers are co-opting the language of the ADA, the people using the excuses are actively imperiling the actual disability community. Millions of Americans with disabilities are facing uniquely difficult challenges during lockdown. Additionally, “people with a disability often have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19,” note two Australian health experts in The Conversation. “They may also be more at risk of contracting the virus if they have disability workers entering their home.” Other research cited by NPR found that “people with intellectual disabilities and autism who contract COVID-19 die at higher rates than the rest of the population.”
Typically, people living with a disability and the families of people living with a disability are hyper-aware of the threat of COVID-19. Shannon Des Roches Rosa writes for The Washington Post that her autistic son can’t wear a mask because “[h]is neurology makes him more sensitive than other people to touch and texture, and he cannot bear the feeling of having his nose and mouth covered by fabric.” She goes on to explain the exhaustive ways she and her family work to protect both her son and the people her son might come in contact with. Naturally, the rest of the population wearing masks and not making excuses would also help protect people like her son, who are among the few who truly can’t wear masks themselves.