A TEEN was left in tears after a train passenger abuses her for removing her face mask so her deaf sister could lip read.
Saule Pakenaite, 16, was travelling with her sister Karolina, 24, from Liverpool Central to Southport when the passenger berated the pair.
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The shocking footage captured the woman unleashing a tirade of abuse and she refused to believe Karolina’s disabilities – despite the guide dog sitting next to their feet.
Disability groups have warned this isn’t an isolated incident as many who cannot wear face coverings fear they will face shaming in public.
New rules over where and when face masks are required to be worn in England came into force yesterday.
Face coverings are now mandatory by law in shops, supermarkets, takeaways and public transport in England – and those who refuse to comply can be fined £100.
Wearing a mask on public transport was already compulsory, but there are official exemptions for people who cannot wear masks due to disabilities or other medical reasons.
Karolina has Usher Syndrome which affects her sight and hearing, and is legally “deafblind”.
She was not wearing a mask when she travelled on July 16, because she is not required to.
In the distressing video, the passenger sitting opposite the pair starts doubts the sister’s explanation.
Saule can be heard telling the passenger: “She’s got Usher syndrome, google it.”
Karolina adds: “Look what this is. A guide dog.”
The woman replies: “I understand, right. You’re taking the piss, you.”
The passenger pauses before gesturing angrily at the sisters and says: “I was sat there. I watched you like that, your mask. You got to wear the mask.”
The woman then doubts Karolina’s diagnosis as deaf and shouts: “You’re talking to me.”
Saule fires back: “Have some awareness and google it.”
Karolina adds: “I am hard of hearing – if you want to be specific – and visually impaired, if you want to be more specific.”
The woman angrily replies: “You just told me she is ‘deaf blind’.”
The sisters’ try and explain that it is a legal term that falls on a spectrum and it doesn’t always mean people cannot see or hear completely.
Saule is then reduced to tears as the woman continues to doubt them.
Saule eventually says: “”I’ve had enough. Don’t talk to me.”
The woman replies: “‘Deaf blind’ my arse.”
Saule cries: “Are you kidding me. Do you know what she goes through?”
A male passenger tries to intervene but it doesn’t help the situation as the passenger then claims her son is deaf.
People with conditions like breathing difficulties, anxiety disorders or autism, or children under 11 do not need to wear masks.
This week, the Government made official exemption cards available to disabled people and others who have health reasons which make wearing a mask difficult after campaigners warned about the risk of abuse.
The official card can be printed out and stuck to a person’s phone or pinned to clothing so people know they have a reason not to be wearing a mask.
However, disability charities have called on the Government to do more to promote public awareness to protect vulnerable groups.
Karolina said: “I can no longer stay silent about this as I keep experiencing attacks and hearing similar experiences from others too. It’s taking an effect on my mental health.
“Not enough people are taking this pandemic seriously but this behaviour is never acceptable.
“Please, respect people individually, ask us, listen, discuss and I am always happy to hear ideas for alternative solutions, but harassment, name calling or any type of abuse or aggression will never be ok.”
Richard Kramer, Chief Executive, of disability charity, Sense, which is supporting Karolina and highlighted the shocking incident, said: “Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident. We are hearing lots of reports of disabled people, and those supporting them, being challenged for not covering up.
“These experiences cause distress and anxiety, and lead many disabled people to feel they have to stay at home, where they become isolated.
“We welcome the government’s introduction of ‘exemption cards’, but more must be done to raise public awareness of who is exempt from wearing face coverings, so the public are on board and disabled people feel supported.”