Autistic man 'humiliated' by shop staff for not wearing a mask
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
An Ipswich man with a hidden disability is calling for more awareness of the Equality Act, after being verbally abused for not wearing a mask in a shop.
Alun Causaker has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a condition which people will not be aware he has just by looking at him, and can't wear a mask because of sensory issues which make him panic if anything is covering his mouth or nose.
The 37-year-old lives with his wife and four children, and was recently involved in an incident at a shop where a member of staff told him his exemption reasons were "rubbish", accused him of "carrying something" infectious and laughed in his face when he complained she was mocking his disability.
"Ironically people like me with ASD are told we have no empathy and appear cold, yet it is neurotypical people — people without autism — or people without disabilities I find are the most lacking in compassion and empathy," he explained.
"Telling someone to ‘just wear a mask’ who has medical exemptions due to disabilities is the same as saying to a person who uses a wheelchair, ‘just walk up those stairs’.
"It’s going to be either very difficult and distressing for them, or it is simply not possible. Just because a disability is hidden does not mean it doesn’t have a significant impact upon our everyday life, no matter how well we hide it at times."
The stay-at-home dad ended up breaking down after leaving the shop and said he was "useless" to his family for the next couple of hours, due to the staff member's behaviour, sheer embarrassment, stress and anxiety it caused.
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He hadn't had a meltdown like this in months and added: "The government need to do more to make people aware of the implications of the Equality Act 2010, and that by refusing service to people without masks because of a disability is discrimination, whether they feel it is or not.
"People do not have to show anyone proof of exemption, and yet if people refuse to show anything, we are treated like criminals and must be lying as we won’t provide anything."