Disability Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Published: November 17, 2020

According to the Governor’s Fifteenth Emergency Proclamation and statewide face covering requirement, all individuals shall wear face coverings over their noses and mouths when in public settings. Information about exceptions for persons with disabilities is available to download in a PDF format. Click the link: Governor’s 15th Emergency Proclamation to download and print this information.

The information below is based on current State of Hawaii policies and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. In addition, the information provided here is for the convenience of interested persons and the reader should be aware that the sources of the information are solely responsible for their content. The answer to question #2 (below) is based on the Disability and Communication Access Board’s understanding of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as they apply to the policies, practices, or procedures of state and local governments.

COVID-19 Emergency Proclamations issued by the Governor can be found at:

The current CDC guidelines are available at:

1. According to the Governor’s Fifteenth Emergency Proclamation and statewide face covering requirement, a store must require its customers to wear a face covering or mask. If a person with a disability cannot wear a face covering or mask because of their disability, can the store prevent the person from entering?

No. Exhibit J of the Governor’s Fifteenth Emergency Proclamation lists exceptions to the statewide face covering requirement. Item A exempts, “Individuals with medical conditions or disabilities where the wearing of a face covering may pose a health or safety risk to the individual.” Further, Item H exempts, “Individuals who are communicating with the hearing impaired while actively communicating (e.g., signing or lipreading).”

Exhibit J also states, “An owner or operator of any business or operation shall refuse admission or service to any individual who fails to wear a face covering, unless an exception applies under this section.”

The Governor’s Fifteenth Emergency Proclamation, which continues through December 31, 2020, may be found here: https://governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2011051-ATG_Fifteenth-Proclamation-Related-to-the-COVID-19-Emergency-distribution-signed.pdf

2. When orders limit gatherings to a certain number of people (e.g. no more than 10 people), does an individual with a disability’s personal care assistant or attendant (PCA) count towards the number of people gathering?

Unless doing so would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others, a reasonable modification of policies limiting gatherings to a certain number of people should be made to exclude the PCA from the count.

3. Where can information be found about the Emergency Orders issued by the County Mayors?

City & County of Honolulu
Link: https://www.honolulu.gov/mayor/proclamations-orders-and-rules.html

County of Hawaii
Link: https://www.hawaiicounty.gov/departments/civil-defense/active-emergency-proclamations

County of Kauai
Link: https://www.kauai.gov/Government/Departments-Agencies/Emergency-Management-Agency-formerly-Civil-Defense/Emergency-Proclamations

County of Maui
Link: https://www.mauicounty.gov/2370/COVID-19-Coronavirus-Information

4. Where can people find additional information about federal, state, and local laws concerning the rights of people with disabilities in employment settings during the COVID-19 pandemic?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “The EEO laws, including the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, continue to apply during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the CDC or state/local public health authorities about steps employers should take regarding COVID-19. Employers should remember that guidance from public health authorities is likely to change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Therefore, employers should continue to follow the most current information on maintaining workplace safety.”

For more information, go to the EEOC website on COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws: https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws

The CDC Guidelines for Workplaces and Businesses may be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html

5. Where can people find additional information about federal, state, and local laws concerning the rights of people with disabilities in healthcare settings during the COVID-19 pandemic?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), “The Office for Civil Rights enforces Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in HHS funded health programs or activities. These laws, like other civil rights statutes OCR enforces, remain in effect. As such, persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgments about a person’s relative “worth” based on the presence or absence of disabilities or age. Decisions by covered entities concerning whether an individual is a candidate for treatment should be based on an individualized assessment of the patient based on the best available objective medical evidence.”

HHS Bulletin: Civil Rights, HIPPA, and he Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ocr-bulletin-3-28-20.pdf

6. An individual believes they have been discriminated against. Where can they go?

If you believe that you were discriminated against, you can file a complaint, at no cost, with the Hawai`i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC). You must file within 180 days, or 6 months, after the discrimination happened. Call HCRC immediately at (808) 586-8692. For your meeting with HCRC, you should:

• Present specific dates and facts about the alleged discrimination.

• Identify documents and witnesses, if any, that substantiate charges in the complaint.

• Have your updated personal information such as a current mailing address, phone number and email address ready to give to HCRC.

After you submit the information, the HCRC will determine if you can file a complaint within the 180-day/6-month period after the discrimination happened. You can find more information on the complaint process and your role in it on the HCRC website: https://labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc/.

You may also file a complaint with the Disability Rights Section in the Department of Justice if you believe that you or another person has been discriminated against by an entity covered by the ADA. You may submit your complaint online or by mail or facsimile. For more information, including how to request an accommodation to prepare a complaint, go to https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm 

All inquiries can be made by contacting the Disability and Communication Access Board via email at [email protected] or by phone at (808) 586-8121.