Supermarkets including Tesco, ASDA, Waitrose, Aldi and Morrisons have recently announced new bans on shoppers entering without a face covering in a bid to curb Covid-19 transmission.
But Disability Equality Scotland has said this has led to an “influx” of calls from distressed members of the public who have been refused entry to shops despite being medically exempt from wearing a face mask or covering.
There are several medical exemptions from wearing a face covering, including in cases where it would cause difficulty, pain or distress to the wearer.
Some examples include people with lung conditions, autism, claustrophobia or anxiety, as well as those caring for a vulnerable person if that would be made more difficult by wearing a face mask.
Disability Equality Scotland said one 75-year-old who had previously been accepted as exempt from wearing face coverings by the local supermarket was refused entry after the rule change.
Another said they were barred entry from a supermarket unless they showed a letter from their doctor to prove medical exemption.
“This led me to just walking out the store and going back to the car and sitting crying for an hour. The stress this has caused is immense and I worry about going anywhere in case it happens again,” they said.
Chief Executive Morven Brooks said she has been “utterly appalled” by the “shocking” stories the charity has heard from people in the past week as a direct consequence of supermarkets tightening their rules.
"I would like to remind retailers and the public to be respectful of circumstances when people cannot wear a face covering,” she said.
"Staff can simply approach people to ask if they can wear a face covering and if they are exempt, this should be accepted.”
Disability Equality Scotland administers face covering exemption cards, along with several other charities in Scotland.
All supermarkets which have banned shoppers without face coverings have stipulated in their policies that the rules do not apply to those with medical exemptions.