I’ve seen stories floating around social media of people who are trying to use the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as excuses not to wear masks in public despite orders from their governor to mask up.
First, I want to point out that the most frequently shared story includes a sign that says HIPPA, not HIPAA, which should tell you that the person in question has no idea what they are talking about. The main point of HIPAA is that it protects your privacy, yes, but specifically as it relates to healthcare providers. HIPAA does not apply to you trying to get out of complying with a mask order.
Second, there is the ADA. The ADA requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for disabilities. However, because not wearing a mask increases the risk of spreading a potentially deadly disease, it is hard to argue that such an exemption is ‘reasonable.’ Although it is true that certain respiratory illnesses may mean that you can’t safely wear a mask, the reality is that it means that you should probably not be going into public if you have such a disease, especially since the Coronavirus is itself a respiratory illness.
And this is more serious than just not wearing a mask, even though the risks of that shouldn’t be understated. Pretending to have a disability and misusing the ADA and HIPAA hurt everyone who does have a legitimate disability. It minimizes the legitimate battles experienced by not just those with mental illnesses, but all disabilities.
I get that wearing a mask isn’t always awesome. None of us necessarily like wearing them. Yet it shows that you care about more than just yourself. Yet trying to misuse the law to get out of wearing a mask shows you don’t care about others. In more ways than one.