stack of blue surgical masks. IDEAS does information so you can do life.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, wearing a face mask is now mandatory or strongly recommended in some situations and some places. In some situations, wearing a face mask will not be appropriate for people with some disabilities, physical or mental health conditions. 

Adaptations and alternatives should be considered whenever possible to increase the feasibility of wearing a cloth face covering or to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading if it is not possible to wear one. If you can wear a mask, you should. If you can't, don't panic. Even in places where wearing face masks is mandatory there are exceptions or lawful reasons not to wear one. 

Skip to: Choose understandingExemptions | Clinical reasons | Autism 

Choose understanding not judgement

IDEAS is encouraging people to choose understanding, not judgement if they see people not wearing masks.

We're sharing this message across social media and through the community:

Please remember not everyone can wear a mask safely, including some people with a disability. The law says that this is okay.

Exemptions for wearing a mask


Everyone in the Greater Brisbane area is required to wear a mask whenever they are outside their home during the lockdown period. Masks are not required while eating and drinking or if an exemption applies. For example, a person affected by a medical or mental health condition or disability is not required to wear a mask.

The Queensland Government has information and answers to questions about the Greater Brisbane Lockdown here

Live in QLD? Need to Know COVID-19 Disability Info


Wearing a face mask is mandatory in some indoor settings in Greater Sydney right now. It may not be suitable for some people with a disability to wear a face mask. 

If you have a condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you may wish to ask your registered health practitioner or disability care provider to issue a letter confirming this. However, this is not a requirement under the public health order.

The NSW Government answers some Common questions about face mask rules here.

Live in NSW? The latest about COVID-19


A face mask is mandatory when you are in a public indoor setting, using public transport and taxis or ride share vehicles. The Victorian Government says there are some lawful excuses or exceptions for not wearing a face mask. 

A face mask is not required in some circumstances including for:

  • Infants and children under the age of 12 years.
  • A person who is affected by a relevant medical condition, including problems with their breathing, a serious condition of the face, a disability or a mental health condition.
  • Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

Go to Exceptions for not wearing a face mask for the complete list. 

Exemption Badges

You can choose to use a printable badge or a Smartphone badge that is available from the Victorian DHHS website.

Smartphone Badge

For anyone who is exempt and has a valid reason for not wearing a face mask.

For more info on restrictions in Victoria, go to Victorian Roadmap to COVID Normal - what you need to know

Disability and Wearing Face Masks - COVID-19

Clinical reasons not to wear masks

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, cloth face coverings should not be worn by:

  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face-covering without assistance

The below information is directly taken from the Centres for Disease Prevention and Control Info sheet, click here for the full article.

  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing—or those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired—may be unable to wear cloth face coverings if they rely on lipreading to communicate. In this situation, consider using a clear face covering. If a clear face covering isn’t available, consider whether you can use written communication, use closed captioning, or decrease background noise to make communication possible while wearing a cloth face covering that blocks your lips.
  • Some people, such as people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health conditions or other sensory sensitivities, may have challenges wearing a cloth face covering. They should consult with their healthcare provider for advice about wearing cloth face coverings.
  • Younger children (e.g., preschool or early primary-aged)may be unable to wear a cloth face-covering properly, particularly for an extended period of time. Wearing of cloth face coverings may be prioritised at times when it is difficult to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others (e.g., during carpool drop off or pick up, or when standing in line at school). Ensuring proper cloth face-covering size and fit and providing children with frequent reminders and education on the importance and proper wear of cloth face coverings may help address these issues.
  • People should not wear cloth face coverings while engaged in activities that may cause the cloth face covering to become wet, like when swimming at the beach or pool. A wet cloth face covering may make it difficult to breathe. For activities like swimming, it is particularly important to maintain physical distance from others when in the water.
  • People who are engaged in high-intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a cloth face covering if it causes difficulty breathing. If unable to wear a cloth face covering, consider conducting the activity in a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (for instance, outdoors versus indoors) and where it is possible to maintain physical distance from others.
  • People who work in a setting where cloth face coverings may increase the risk of heat-related illness or cause safety concerns due to introduction of a hazard (for instance, straps getting caught in machinery) may consult with occupational safety and health professional to determine the appropriate face covering for their setting. Outdoor workers may prioritise the use of cloth face coverings when in close contact with other people, like during group travel or shift meetings, and remove face coverings when social distancing is possible.

Cloth face coverings are a critical preventive measure and are most essential in times when social distancing is difficult. If cloth face coverings cannot be used, make sure to take other measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

Above taken from COVID-19: Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and masks

Harvard Medical Publishing has some tips around Helping people with autism spectrum disorder manage masks and COVID-19 tests. It outlines challenges and suggestions for what to do in each situation.

IDEAS has heard of parents helping children work with their sensory needs, by offering fabric masks in materials or colours/ designs that the children enjoy. 

Graphics you can use to help tell a story, produced by WHO is available for download here. 

IDEAS does information so you can do life.