About this good practice
In response to the COVID-19 virus, the Scottish Government published guidance on the use of face coverings on public transport in Scotland. Face coverings were mandatory on public transport in order to prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. An exemption applies for children under 5 years of age, or for those with particular health conditions who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability or without severe distress.
There is no requirement to obtain evidence in the form of a letter from a doctor or government for an exemption. However, Thistle Assistance now offers the possibility to easily communicate if someone is exempt from wearing a face covering. Thistle Assistance is an initiative to help people feel safer and more comfortable when using public transport. The Thistle Assistance Card and App are an easy way of letting transport staff know what additional assistance a person might need. In response to COVID-19 and the face covering requirement, the Card and App now include a sticker for those that are exempt from wearing face covering.
Internal staff resources to manage changes to the app to include the face mask exemption sticker. Costs to amend the existing app by developers - approximately £3000.
Evidence of success
A face covering exemption sticker was implemented in the Thistle Assistance Card and App, allowing users to easily communicate to transport staff and fellow travellers that they are exempt from wearing a face covering on public transport. There were over 5000 downloads of the App following the introduction of the face mask exemption sticker.
Potential for learning or transfer
Thistle Assistance Card and App existed before the outbreak of the pandemic, adding a mask exemption sticker to a recognised communications tool meant that the exemption was easily adopted into the Thistle Assistance concept, and easily recognised by transport operators.
Self-policing on public transport during pandemic meant some people no longer feel at ease using public transport when they are exempt. Simple communication that someone is exempt from wearing a face mask increases confidence when using public transport, although no evidence of an exemption is strictly required when using public transport.
Anyone can use the card or download the Thistle Assistance app as it is non-region or country specific. The concept can easily be adopted and adapted to other countries or regions. An information campaign targeting operators and a a public awareness campaign helps increase awareness of Thistle Assistance among operators and increases recognition and acceptance on public transport