Keep opinions about people not wearing masks to yourself: disabilities advocate

·2 min read

The P.E.I. Council of People With Disabilities is urging Islanders to avoid making assumptions about those not wearing masks in public places.

"They don't know that person's history, their experiences, and they do not know what health conditions they may be living with at this current time," said Marcia Carroll, the organization's executive director.

"Understand that your reality is not everybody's reality."

On Nov. 20, masks became mandatory inside all public places on P.E.I. However, there are exceptions to the rule for children under the age of two and those who cannot wear one for medical reasons.

People who are going to comply will comply. And the people who can't comply should be treated with the same respect. — Marcia Carroll

But according to Carroll, those medical reasons aren't always apparent.

"If you saw somebody in a wheelchair or somebody using a white cane ... and they were not following a health directive, you might not confront them because their disability is visible," said Carroll.

"But for somebody who has an invisible disability, again, they still have a disability."

'It's public shaming'

Carroll said singling those people out over not being able to wear a mask not only leads to social isolation, it can also be extremely stressful.

"It's a way of shaming and it's public shaming. And quite frankly, it's a little bit of bullying," she said.

"People who are going to comply will comply. And the people who can't comply should be treated with the same respect."

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News

For now, Carroll said she recommends people keep their judgment to themselves and if you can wear a mask, wear it.

"Wearing masks does not just protect yourself, it protects other people. That also includes the people who can't wear masks," she said.

And for those who have already experienced being called out for not wearing a mask, Carroll also has a message: "I'm sorry."

"Your health is your own personal business." she said. "You have to make decisions that best suit you and best allow you to navigate your world in a free and dignified way.

"So just step back, mind your own business and go forward."

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