Mandatory Mask ByLaws: Consideration Beyond Exemption for Persons with Disabilities


  • Jessica Kohek
  • Ash Seth
  • Meaghan Edwards
  • Jennifer Zwicker University of Calgary



Mandatory mask bylaws are set to be instated in both Calgary and Edmonton, and other regions of Canada in efforts to reduce transmission of COVID-19. While mandatory mask bylaws are rooted in the interest of public safety, accessibility challenges for persons with disabilities need to be considered to ensure full participation in society. This communiqué highlights some key considerations for implementation of inclusive mandatory mask guidelines. 


The City of Calgary and other jurisdictions are implementing a bylaw that mandates face coverings be worn in public transit, public vehicles for hire, public indoor space and City public facilities. There are a number of important considerations for persons with disability in regard to acquisition of face masks, public participation, and enforcement of mask-wearing policies. Without inclusive design and clear communication, mandatory mask bylaws may produce numerous barriers to social re-entry for persons with disabilities. Such barriers include unequal access to face masks, social stigma, exclusion from public spaces, and disproportionate questioning or penalization (Williamson and Whaley 2020). As the economy re-opens, it is important to ensure the safety of all Albertans. While mandatory face mask bylaws have evidence to support effectiveness in slowing transmission, safe economic re-launch must be inclusive of persons with disabilities, a demographic that has been inequitably burdened by the effects of COVID-19 and unduly overlooked in pandemic response and recovery planning.