Review of the Americans with Disabilities Act As it Pertains to the Mandatory Use of Facemasks

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Review of the Americans with Disabilities Act As it Pertains to the Mandatory Use of Facemasks

July 14, 2020

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects “disabled” persons from being denied access to “Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities.” This means that private businesses that offer their products and services to the general public may not deny access to their businesses to persons who are “disabled.”

These “private entities” (i.e. private businesses) that are legally defined as “Public Accommodations and Services,” are listed in Subchapter III, Section 12181 (7)(A-L) of the ADA, and include things like: restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, banks, schools, spas, gyms, etc. Essentially all retail businesses and professional services are included in this definition.

Furthermore, the legal definition of a “disability” according to the ADA, Section 12102, 1(A), means: “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.”

By this legal definition of “disability,” according to the ADA, the mental impairment caused by the feelings of anxiety, claustrophobia, anxiety, or any such like, is a disability and is protected by the ADA. Additionally, and particularly, any mental or physical condition which impairs “respiratory function” is considered a legal “disability” as specifically noted in Section 12102, 2(B)(1).

While some may object to these definitions, they have already been confirmed in US Law (by the Americans with Disabilities Act), and have been established by precedent(s) set by case law over the last 3 decades. Additionally, in regards to defining “disability” as it pertains to the ADA, the law itself very specifically gives the following instructions regarding how to interpret or classify a “disability” for legal purposes:

Section 12102, 4(1)(A) The definition of “disability” in this chapter shall be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals under this chapter, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this chapter.

This means that when attempting to define “disability” legally, according to the terms laid out in the ADA, one should not try to limit the application of the term, but rather should use the broadest means possible to define and apply the use of the term. Therefore, any attempt to restrict the application of the term “disability” to NOT APPLY to persons with mental or physical conditions that would prevent them from wearing a facemask, is an affront and violation to the letter of the law in the ADA.

In short, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, any American who suffers from anxiety, feelings of claustrophobia, fear, panic, phobias, or has difficulty breathing with a face mask, may not be compelled to wear a face mask by any public or private entity in the United States.


I heard that the ADA has stated that mandatory facemask use is not prohibited by the ADA. This is false. The confusion is in regards to posts made on the ADA.gov website which were denouncing fraudulent flyers which used the DOJ seal and inferred that they were official documents from the Department of Justice. These flyers are and were fraudulent, but the ADA's denouncement of these flyers had nothing to do with the application of ADA law to the use of facemasks.

If the ADA prevents the mandatory use of facemasks, then why are so many businesses and governments mandating facemask use? The ADA does not prohibit a business or government from mandating the use of a facemask, so long as those entities provide exceptions for people with a "disability." As noted above, the legal definition of a "disability" can be broadly applied to anyone with a mental impairment of anxiety or anyone who has trouble breathing with a facemask on. Incidentally, nearly all businesses who are requiring the use of facemasks, have publicized these exemptions and are in compliance with the ADA.

I have trouble breathing with a facemask on, how can I claim "disability" status so that I don't have to wear a facemask? You simply must claim it verbally or explain to those who are trying to prevent access to you, that you have a health condition which does not allow you to wear a facemask. For assistance, you can use the Facemask Exemption card here.

Available Downloads:

Download a copy of this Article in PDF Format
Download a complete copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Download the Facemask Exemption Card
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Click on the image above to download your own 4-up copy of the Face Mask Health Exemption. We suggest that you print it out, laminate it, and use it everywhere you go.
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