man wearing a surgical face mask

The advice on the wearing of face masks has changed as COVID-19 continues to spread. This blog contains information and links to videos about making, wearing and washing face masks; and the lawful reasons that masks need not be worn. Last updated 12th August.

We try and bring together all the info you need about masks in one place.  This whole article is a 10-minute read. Or you can just go to the section you need.

If it is easier to talk to someone, please ring the COVID-19 Disability Information Helpline on 1800 643 787, Monday to Friday 8 am to 8 pm. IDEAS Information Officers answer the calls and can help with your questions.

On this page

Please click on the link to go to the information you need, they will open in a new tab.

Media Releases, News and Official Information

PPE - Community Services - 10th August
Vulnerable Victorians - 24th July 2020
NDIS - Using Funds for Masks and PPE - 29th July 2020 
NDIS - Your Health and Safety
Easy Read and Easy English - Information
Videos in Community Languages
How to wear a mask 
Lawful excuses or exceptions for not wearing a face-covering 
Masks, glasses and fogging
Communication Needs and Masks
Autism Spectrum Disorder and masks 
Making a mask 
Where can I get a mask 
Recommendations for using a cloth mask
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Wearing Personal Protective Equipment for Disability Support Workers - Updated 10th August


Latest health advice on masks

2 August 2020

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant recommends wearing a mask:

  • if it is hard to maintain 1.5 metres of physical distance from others 

  • in areas where there has been community transmission 

  • when in high-risk indoor areas such as public transport, supermarkets, shops, churches and other places of worship  

  • when caring for or serving vulnerable people 

  • if working in a cafe, restaurant, pub, club or other high-risk indoor areas.  

While wearing a mask in any of these settings is not mandatory, it is highly recommended. See NSW Government for more information.


The Chief Health Officer recommends that all Victorians wear a face mask when leaving home if it is difficult to keep 1.5 metres apart from other people.

From midnight Sunday 2nd August, face coverings will be mandatory in ALL of Victoria.

On the 30th July, it was announced People in NSW should consider wearing a face mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

Wearing a mask can help protect you and those around you if you are in an area with community transmission, and physical distancing is not possible, like on public transport.

While a mask can be used as an extra precaution, you must continue to:

  • stay at home if unwell
  • maintain physical distance (more than 1.5m) from other people, when out
  • avoid large gatherings and crowded indoor spaces
  • practise hand and respiratory hygiene

NSW Update

We are awaiting official confirmation, In her Press Conference Toda

Recommendations for using a cloth mask - Victoria.

The Victorian DHHS suggest staying home, keeping 1.5 metres between yourself and others and washing your hands are still the best defences against coronavirus (COVID-19). Wearing a face mask provides an extra physical barrier and helps to reduce community transmission. 


Closed captioning of the video of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton is available in the video and a transcript is written at this linkFor more information visit DHHS.

The Australian Government have produced guides for the rest of Australia.


Easy Read and Easy English - Should I wear a Mask?

From the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services

 From the Australian Government

From Access Easy English 

From NSW

IDEAS encourages people to print and share Easy English and Easy Read information with people who may not have access to the internet.

Videos in Community Languages

These are in 16 different community languages and have been made by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.
View them here and please share them with anyone who would benefit from seeing them.

Lawful excuses or exceptions for not wearing a face covering

In updates published by the DHHS a face covering is not required in the following circumstances: 

  • 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 skin condition on the face, a disability or a mental health condition.
  • This also includes persons who are communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to that person’s health and safety, related to their work, as determined through OH&S guidelines.
  • Persons whose professions need clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth. This includes teaching or live broadcasting. 
  • Professional sportspeople when training or competing.
  • When the individual is doing any exercise or physical activity where they are out of breath or puffing; examples include jogging or running but not walking. You must have a face covering on you and wear it when you finish exercising.
  • When directed by police to remove the face covering to check identity.
  • The person is travelling in a vehicle by themselves or with other members of their household.
  • When consuming food, drink, medication or when smoking/vaping.
  • When undergoing dental treatment or other medical care to the extent that the procedure requires that no face covering may be worn. 
  • When entering or inside a financial institution, like a bank.
  • During emergencies.

You must carry a face covering with you when leaving home for one of the 4 reasons, even if you don’t need to wear it while undertaking your current activity, for example, you can take your face covering off to eat. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a face-covering at all times you don’t need to carry it with you. 

You do not need a medical certificate stating that you have a lawful reason for not wearing a mask. If you have a lawful reason for not wearing a mask you do not need to apply for an exemption or permit.

If you are stopped by police, they will ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a mask. See DHHS for more information.

IDEAS has been raising awareness about the need for people to show understanding if they see some people not wearing masks. This is especially so for people with invisible disabilities, where the disability cannot be "seen".


 Making a mask

To make a cloth mask, the Victorian DHHS has produced a guide. Link to Design and preparation of cloth mask. 

PDF Version for Download pdfDesign and Preparation of cloth mask

IDEAS have requested this document in accessible formats. We endeavour to provide them here, so watch this space.

A video version, from The Social Studio, is recommended by DHHS via their youtube channel, you can view it here.


The Hearing, Speech and Deaf Centre have shared a guide on how to make an Accessible, Deaf Friendly Face Mask.
This includes a clear section of the mask so that lip reading and facial expressions can still be seen.


How to wear a mask

The WHO has produced an animated video with text on how to wear a fabric mask safely. WHO Organisation A fabric mask can act as a barrier to prevent the spread of the virus. But, it must be used correctly and always combined with other measures to protect yourself and everyone else. Here is how to wear a fabric mask safely.


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. 

Other great tips include if the child does not like having the elastic around their ears, sew two buttons on their favourite hat and loop the elastic over the buttons. Rather than rest on the ears, this can add space between the ear and the elastic. They can wear their hat if they need to leave the house.

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

Communication Needs and Masks

Some people need to use masks with clear sections so that they can communicate with people who need to see facial expressions and lip read. Masks can also be lowered to show facial expressions - if people remain 1.5m apart from each other. Using paper and pen, or a mobile device may also be an alternative means of communication. If you download a speech to text app you can still communicate with people who cannot see your mouth.

Expressions Australia has developed a toolkit with images that you can save on your device to help you communicate with people wearing masks.

Masks, glasses and fogging

A combination of warm air when breathing out, outside cooler air temperatures, wearing glasses and adding a mask equal foggy glasses. The Conversation have a great article to help you.

'It may take a few attempts to get used to wearing a mask. But with a bit of trial and error, your glasses should remain fog-free, your ears comfortable and any anxiety about wearing a mask should reduce' The Conversation

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Wearing Personal Protective Equipment for Disability Support Workers

Allison McMillan, Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, covers common concerns for Disability Support Workers and demonstrates how and when to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) for disability support workers in this videoFor the media release about wearing of surgical face masks Two million more face masks for Victorian aged care and disability workers

From 10th August, Community Services sector has new advice

 In addition to the existing requirement for all staff in community services to wear surgical masks, new advice requires staff to wear eye protection when they are directly working with clients. Detailed information on the plan can be found at Community Services. Please view the plan online, as any printed copies may be superseded by newer versions online.

In addition to wearing masks, a P2/N95 respirator/mask is required where providing care in an uncontrolled environment where there are high numbers of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases and there may be exposure to aerosol-generating behaviours.

Services are requested to access appropriate eye protection for their client-facing staff.  This is a public health infection control recommendation and this should be implemented as soon as feasible.

Providers of residential care, supported residential services, disability group homes, crisis and congregate homelessness services and other care settings, who require PPE should email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to make a request.

All requests will be triaged by the department with priority given to facilities, programs and carers where there has been a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Demand for PPE is very high, therefore providers are encouraged to source PPE independently if they can, prior to requesting stock from the department.

Disability providers funded under the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) have access to the National Medical Stockpile and should request PPE through this in the first instance: NDIS Commission
Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) should access PPE by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The following sector guidance has been updated for community services workers and will be uploaded to the department’s Community services Coronavirus website
• PPE for Community services guide
• FAQs for community services workers about wearing face coverings
• Community services safe working requirements in stage 4

Where can I get a mask?

Locally, your chemist, pharmacy, some corner stores or convenience stores, some clothing retailers, hardware stores, or you may find a charity group or sewing group is selling them.  Your service provider may be able to help you with supplies of masks too. Some chemists have online orders or telephone orders available. If you are having trouble finding somewhere close to home, contact our Information Officers, we can do the searching for you. Masks can also be purchased online. Just be careful that when you are buying them, they are either approved surgical masks (that meet the Australian Standard) or they are cloth mask with three layers.
The Government has ordered an extra 2 million masks for aged care workers and disability workers. Disability providers and self-managed NDIS participants can request access to PPE from the NMS by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., where they cannot get the equipment they need through their usual channels.

The Department of Health and Human Services will be distributing 2.1 million reusable face masks through Service Providers to:

  • Vulnerable Victorians
  • Aboriginal Victorians; and
  • Workforces who come into direct client contact and deliver Victorian Government-funded health and human services to a range of vulnerable Victorians


Who is determined to be a vulnerable Victorian?

Victorians who will be offered reusable face masks will include:

  • People over the age of 12 years who are being actively managed for the following chronic conditions:
    • Poor immunity
    • Heart disease, diabetes and stroke
    • Obesity
    • Chronic lung disease
    • Alcohol and drug dependency
    • Frailty
  • People living in public housing, in crisis accommodation, or who are homeless
  • People living in rooming houses and supported residential services
  • People living with a disability
  • People with other needs including alcohol and drug issues, including those attending primary and secondary needle and syringe programs
  • People experiencing mental health
  • People experiencing family violence
  • Young people in residential facilities, and those receiving other health and human services
  • Young people with health and/or social issues that make them vulnerable
  • Young people living in mandatory facilities
  • Aboriginal people
  • Refugee and asylum seekers (including temporary visa holders).

This information comes from DHHS and to apply for this initiative see Reusable Face masks. (Aimed at service providers) And online ordering for Service Providers is here. For an Easy English Document about this see here.



The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has answered questions about masks on their website such as Does my support worker need to wear a mask? Who pays for masks?, Can I buy a transcribing app to use while I wear a mask? Where can I get masks and PPE? and Can I insist that my provider wear masks and gloves?

Temporary changes have been made to the NDIS rules to allow participants to purchase masks and PPE from their funding. This is for people who:

- receive at least one hour a day of face to face daily living supports

- live in areas where there is health advice to wear masks, which right now is Victoria and NSW

The NDIS also has a section for participants that live in Victoria. The NDIA is encouraging participants that live in restricted postcodes in Victoria to contact the National Contact Centre on 1800 800 110 and select option 5 if their situation has changed due to coronavirus (COVID-19). 

If you don't have one - what do you do when you head out to buy one?

Take extra care. Be COVID-Safe and help stop the spread. Stay at least 1.5m from other people and socially distanced.
A scarf or a bandana may also be a last-resort solution until you get a mask.

How much are masks?

Fabric masks, which are washable and reusable, start at around $6.00 for a generic mask.

Single-use, disposable masks surgical masks can cost from $2 upwards, or if you buy in bulk, the cost per mask may be cheaper.

IDEAS encourage you to be careful about unusually high prices, to compare your options, before making a purchasing decision. Beware of scams, online or in-store and if you are not sure, we are happy to help you source local options, or NDIS registered providers.

How to wash a fabric mask

Re-usable masks should be washed frequently in warm-hot water over 60°C, with soap or laundry detergent, or, wash using room temperature water then boil the mask for one minute. See more about washing masks at the Centre for Disease Prevention.


For more information 

DHHS Victoria Face Masks
Australian Government Health Department
NSW Health
NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission – July 17 Service Provider Alert
13 insider tips on how to wear a mask without your glasses fogging up, getting short of breath or your ears hurting From The Conversation 
Extra information according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (USA)
COVID-19: Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings  (USA)
Start Here for all our other COVID-19 Information 

If you have questions about wearing masks or Coronavirus (COVID-19) you can contact IDEAS Information Officers on 1800 029 904, SMS on 0458 296 602, email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through the Disability Information helpline on 1800 643 787.

IDEAS does information so you can do life.