PPE and what it looks like for disabled people and their whanau

You may see people around wearing PPE. PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment and is used to protect you and other people from getting or spreading COVID-19. 

PPE might look like: 

  • People wearing masks to cover their mouth and nose, and 
  • Gloves, 
  • Gowns or plastic aprons, 
  • Eye protection or face shields. 

It’s essential to keep everyone safe, and PPE is a good and critical way of doing that. 

People might wear PPE when their job requires them to be within 2 metres of someone else, or if people have health problems that could cause them to get sick easily. 

People that might wear PPE are doctors, nurses, carers, support workers, and even some other visitors to your home. 

You may be required to wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose in some situations, especially if you’re unwell and seeing a doctor. If you are unable to wear a mask for medical, physical, or communication reasons, you will not have to wear one.  

You may also be required to wear a mask in some community settings under certain Alert Levels where COVID-19 is spreading within communities. These masks can be purchased from several places such as pharmacies or hardware stores. 

PPE might look a little scary, but it’s a good thing. 

The people wearing PPE are just the same people who would look after you, or visit you ordinarily, and they’re wearing it to keep you and them safe. 

If you’re feeling unwell, it’s important to tell your carers, support workers, or the doctors who look after you.This is so that they can make sure they know what PPE to use to keep you and themselves safe. 

If you do wear a mask, you must do so correctly, this means: 

  • Making sure your hands are clean when you put the mask on, 
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and dry them thoroughly; 
  • If you can’t access soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol. If you’re using sanitiser, make sure that you use enough to cover your hands and rub your hands together until dry; 
  • Put the face mask over your nose and mouth and secure it with ties or loops. Make sure the mask fits snugly and fully covers your mouth, nose and chin; 
  • Your mask should be comfortable with no gaps between the mask and your face, and lets you breathe easily;  
  • Don’t touch the front of your mask or your face or eyes; 
  • Replace your face mask if it becomes damp, damaged, or soiled; 
  • Before you take your mask off, clean your hands again by washing them or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser; 
  • Take your mask off carefully by holding the ear loops or untying the ties. For face masks with a pair of ties, undo the bottom tie first, then the top one;
  • If you are using a single-use mask, when you are finished using it make sure it is put in a closed bin or in a sealed plastic bag before you put it in the bin; 
  • Clean your hands again; 
  • Don’t reuse or try to disinfect single-use disposable face masks; If you are using a reusable cloth mask, make sure it’s washed use using hot water (60 degrees Celsius) after each use and clothes detergent. Make sure it is completely dry before reusing it. 

While PPE is important, it’s also essential to maintain good hygiene practises, these include: 

  • making sure your mouth and nose is covered by your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze; 
  • putting used tissues in the bin, or a bag immediately and cleaning your hands immediately; 
  • wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds, and dry them thoroughly, or use hand sanitiser (as above); 
  • avoid close contact with people if you’re unwell; keep a physical distance of at least two metres from others; 
  • Clean surfaces regularly, especially ones that are used or touched often, for example, tabletops, counters, light switches, and touch screens. 

If you are someone who relies on New Zealand Sign Language, or visual facial cues such as lip reading, or are needing to communicate with someone who does. In that case, you are allowed to remove your mask to communicate. However, you must maintain a physical distance of 2 metres when you do. 

If you wear a hearing aid, you need to be careful when putting on or taking off your face mask to make sure you don’t lose your hearing aid or get it tangled in the mask ties or loops. You may find that using face masks that tie around the head, rather than those that loop over the ears, will help keep the mask loops free from your hearing aid. 

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