As someone on the autism spectrum, I have a major issue with physical discomfort. As such, I have long been opposed to mandatory seat belt laws, and helmet laws especially. With face masks, I am inclined to take the same position. However, this case is different. While seat belt and helmet laws are designed to protect the individual through a government mandate, something I am generally opposed to as a civil libertarian, face masks are designed to protect others from a contagious disease they might not consent to getting. As such, I do believe some face mask laws are necessary in places that have a high rate of Covid, but these laws should be kept to a minimum.
If a business refuses to let you in because you are not wearing a mask, it is their right, but unless it is in a place with very high rates of people with the virus, the government should not mandate them to require that people wear masks. In places with high virus rates, the local and state governments may require masks, but only in crowded places where physical distancing from others is not practical. However, I do not approve of governments mandating people to wear masks whenever they are out of their houses or their cars. Such laws go too far. It might be necessary to require people to wear masks when there are many others around them, but it is not necessary when you are walking down an empty street at a far distance from others. If I go into a store, I am fine with putting on a mask. I usually don’t stay there for much more than ten minutes and if I only have to put my mask on for that long I am fine. However, if I am told that I need to wear a mask whenever I am within a certain city, even if I am outdoors not surrounded by others, I am not fine with that. That entails me to put on a mask for too long of a period.
And there is another major issue with masks, especially for people on the autism spectrum. Masks make it harder to understand others. Some of us speak unusually, so others need to rely on our lips to understand what we’re saying. With our lips covered, that ability is gone. Also, masks muffle the sounds coming out of one’s mouth, so if you are hard of hearing it makes it that much more difficult to hear others, and you can’t read one’s lips anymore to compensate. More importantly, facial expressions convey much in what people are saying, and with the bottom half of the face covered, it makes this understanding much more difficult. Those of us on the autism spectrum have had to spend years working very hard on developing the ability to understand these facial expressions. With us no longer being able to see them in our daily interactions, our social skills are at risk of eroding and we are at risk of becoming more disabled than we already are. If mask wearing only lasts a couple months, or is only required in crowded places and not whenever we meet up with friends or family, then we can recover. However, if if it lasts a whole year or more, which I fear might be the case, we will not be able to recover so easily. Furthermore, prolonged mask requirements might make society permanently change the way it communicates. This will not be good for anyone, as the new way society communicates might be less effective than the old one. However, this will especially not be good for people on the autism spectrum who had to spend years honing their social skills and now will need to start all over for a new set of rules.
Once again, temporary mask wearing may and probably should be required when infection rates are high, but there should be a limit to these requirements. Negative consequences of wearing masks have to be weighed against the positive ones without politically polarizing the issue and without trolling people over their mask views.