Bridgnorth Cliff Railway face mask rule is 'discrimination'

  • Published
Bridgnorth Castle Hill Railway
Image caption,
Passengers using Bridgnorth Cliff Railway will have to prove if they are exempt from wearing face coverings

A tourist attraction has been accused of discriminating against visitors with invisible disabilities after turning away people with face mask exemptions.

Two members of a mental health support group were told they could not ride the Bridgnorth Cliff Railway without masks, despite showing staff they were exempt.

Government guidelines allow some people not to wear face coverings and say they will not be expected to prove this.

The railway said its "robust" policy was in the interests of staff safety.

Malvern Tipping, whose family has run the Bridgnorth attraction for generations, said a lot of its staff were elderly and had reported passengers using "fake" lanyards to indicate an invisible disability, although he was unable to say how these were identified.

To protect staff, he said the railway would only allow people to board without face coverings if they have a signed letter from a GP or are clearly severely mentally or physically disabled.

Image caption,
The railway runs up and down sandstone cliffs in Bridgnorth, Shropshire

Shropshire mental health group Sunny Spells Cloudy Days claimed there was "no evidence" of fake lanyards being used and a spokesperson said he was "so angry" about the railway's policy.

"Anywhere we go, we are challenged for not wearing a mask," he said, adding that banning people exempt from wearing coverings "is discrimination".

"He's saying unless you look severely mentally or physically disabled you've got to wear a face mask, which is a clear breach of government guidelines."

The guidelines say a number of people are exempt, including those for whom wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress.

Mental Health charity Mind said coverings can be "especially problematic for people living with anxiety disorders" and can lead to panic attacks.

Image source, Alamy
Image caption,
Mind has called for more awareness about reasons why people may be exempt from wearing face coverings

Stephen Buckley, from the charity, said: "It's really important not to make assumptions about other people you come across who don't have their faces covered.

"Openly challenging this behaviour... is likely to negatively affect their mental health."

Mr Tipping denied breaching the guidelines or equality laws and said the railway would not be backing down.

"Sometimes tough decisions have to be taken to protect people and we stand by that," he said.

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