Face Masks & People with Disabilities

Georgia Tech’s Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation has put together a webinar that outlines CDC’s face mask guidelines and explores solutions to challenges some people with disabilities experience in attempting to follow the guidance.

CDC Guidance on Face Masks
In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many state and local governments recommend wearing a face mask or face covering in public places and around people who do not live in the same household, in addition to other prevention measures such as handwashing and social distancing.

Some disabilities make it difficult or impossible to wear a face mask and some individuals with mobility/movement disorders have difficulty putting on, adjusting, and/or removing a face mask without assistance. This webinar outlines CDC’s face mask guidelines and explores solutions to challenges some people with disabilities experience in attempting to follow the guidance. The session outlines tips, resources, and guidance for wearing face masks to protect help protect yourselves from COVID-19.

The ADA and Masks
Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exempt people with disabilities from mask mandates? If a person with a disability is not able to wear a face mask, state and local government agencies and private businesses must consider reasonable modifications to a face mask policy so that the person with the disability can participate in, or benefit from, the programs offered or goods and services that are provided.

Examples of Modifications

  • Businesses offering curbside delivery of groceries and meals to your car
  • Healthcare providers offering telehealth visits where possible
  • Allowing people to remain in their vehicles until the time of their appointments to minimize contacts with other individuals
  • Offering online ordering with home delivery by third-party services

Mask Adaptations & Alternatives

  • Clear masks or masks with clear inserts can benefit deaf individuals who sign, people with hearing loss who read lips, teachers, caregivers, family, and friends.
  • Clear hoods afford limited protection to children who cannot wear masks (not a substitute for children who can wear masks).
  • Behind the head fasteners or extenders can benefit people without ears or with very small ears, people who find ear loops uncomfortable, people who risk having mask loops entangled with hearing aids, glasses, or headphones.
  • High-contrast masks with solid colors or masks with textured fabric can make them easier to locate for some people with vision loss.


  • Cloth masks are available through mass shopping platforms and in specialty online platforms like etsy.
  • Disposable masks are widely available in local pharmacies and online through mass shopping platforms.
  • Clear masks, shields, and hoods can be purchased online
  • Patterns for making masks are widely available online, the most common patterns are for Olson and pleated masks.
  • Fabric, elastic, and nose pieces can all be purchased from online retailers.

This is a short summary of adaptations and resources from the webinar. To watch a recorded version of the webinar, download the slideshow, or read the transcript, visit Georgia Tech’s Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation’s Training page.

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