Offering Reasonable Accommodations to Clients with Disabilities

If your store policy requires everyone in the store to wear a mask at all times, you should be consistent in enforcing the policy, and not allow exceptions.  But what about a client who cannot wear a mask due to a disability?  If a client informs you that he or she cannot wear a mask due to a disability, you should engage with the client to determine whether you can offer a reasonable accommodation that will allow you to service the client while still protecting the health and safety of your workers and other customers. 

Discuss with the client whether there are any other coverings or barriers that could be placed over the area of the client’s mouth and nose that would prevent respiratory droplets from becoming airborne or landing on other surfaces.  Some clients may be unable to wear the traditional mask that loops around the ears, but may be comfortable with a scarf or neck gaiter.  Inquire as to whether the client would be able to tolerate having any type of cloth draped across the mouth and nose while the service is being performed.  One popular option is the plastic face shield.  A client holds the shield in front of his or her face, but the shield does not touch the face.  The shield allows better circulation of air for the client to breathe, but still blocks the client’s respiratory droplets.  A client may have his or her own face shield, if he or she frequently needs accommodations to mask wearing, but it may be reasonable for the store to purchase one or more face shields to have on hand for client use, if necessary.  (The shields would undergo rigorous sanitation and disinfection procedures between clients.) 

Some clients may still be unable to accept an alternative face covering or barrier as a reasonable accommodation.  If your store has a stylist who is willing, you may consider making arrangements with the client to provide services to the client outside of business hours.  By performing the service outside of business hours, the only person who would be exposed to the client would be the stylist (who should be required to wear extensive personal protective equipment).  The store could be cleaned and sanitized after the service is performed and before the store opens, thereby eliminating the presence of the virus in the air and on surfaces when clients and other staff members are present in the store. 

Other accommodations may exist, and can be uncovered through an open dialogue with the client.  Be open to suggestions, but remember that the safety of your clients and staff is paramount.  If no reasonable accommodation exists you may be unable to service the client.  However, the search for a reasonable accommodation should always be your first step when encountering a client who is unable to wear a mask due to a disability.