Mollie Hernandez picI live every day of my life with a disability. It isn’t something that I can remove because it’s uncomfortable. It isn’t a temporary inconvenience. Disability is a part of my life and always will be. Many of my closest friends also live with disability. Professionally, I advocate for people with disabilities. If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you are impacted in some way by disability. Therefore, I may be preaching to the choir as I speak what is on my mind. If that turns out to be the case, share this blog with someone who needs to hear it.

If someone had told me that a simple act could have prevented my blindness, or someone else’s disability, I would have done it. COVID-19 is a virus that can cause stroke, heart/lung damage, as well as other organ damage. These things can result in permanent disabilities. Wearing a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19 isn’t a big deal and can help prevent you from having something that is a very big deal. If you’re still thinking that wearing a mask is too much of a hassle, allow me to offer you some perspective. The next time you put on a mask, imagine how it would feel to permanently wear one over your eyes as you try to accomplish the same daily tasks. Also, did you know that strokes can cause blindness? So, yeah…it’s a risk you are taking for yourself and others.

For those who want to assert that is your constitutional right to go without a mask, you might end up with bigger battles to fight. This month marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we are still fighting for our civil rights. My co-workers and I are on the front lines of this battle. I promise you, it is easier to wear a mask.

Some disabilities truly prevent a person from wearing a mask. Maybe it’s a sensory impairment, a respiratory issue, or other hidden disability. It is our duty to wear a mask to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

We all want this virus to go away. There are countless unknowns about this virus. What we do know is that wearing a mask helps. The numbers are continuing to rise. Please do your part to stop the spread. You might not die from this virus, but you or someone you care about could be left with permanent effects from it.

Wearing a mask isn’t hard. Disability IS. It seems like an easy choice. Wear the mask.

Mollie Hernandez is an advocate at Disability Rights Arkansas. Email her at mhernandez@disabilityrightsAR.org.