Grasping at Straws: Exploring the Vilification of an Accessibility Tool With the Plastic Straw Bans by Renee Herren

4 years ago
Grasping at Straws: Exploring the Vilification of an Accessibility Tool With the Plastic Straw Bans

The latest push to ban single-use plastic straws is well intentioned but does not take into consideration that for people with disabilities, plastic straws are an accessibility tool. Plastic straws provide a simple, accessible means for many disabled people to drink. It is as simple as that. For people with disabilities, straws are not frivolous; they are a means to inclusion.

I know, I know. There are tons of other alternatives, right? I too have read about all of the other options that are so eagerly being shared all over the internet. Glass, paper, bamboo, rubber... There are so many options out there but what if none of these are viable options? Don’t assume these options have not been tried or that people with disabilities or their caregivers are uninformed. We should trust that disabled people know what their needs are and how to meet them.

Sometimes alternatives are not better. Paper straws disintegrate if left in a drink too long. Metal and glass don’t work well for hot liquids and can hurt people who bite them. Another thing to consider is that if you have trouble drinking, you are likely to have trouble washing and carrying a reusable straw. Cleaning reusable straws requires a good bit of dexterity that the user may or may not have.

I think that we all want a cleaner planet and to protect wildlife. But doing so should not result in some people losing their accessibility. Sustainability is pointless without inclusivity. So, if you don't need a straw, don't use one. If and when someone does ask for a straw, please, just give them one.

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Ann Marie Patitucci
Thank you so much for raising this, Renee Herren . Certainly many of us care about sustainability and caring for the planet, but it is indeed important to consider the consequences of these kinds of decisions on individuals and communities.
Mike Prochaska
My wife was actually telling me this over the weekend.
Elisa Schmitz, 30Seconds
Thank you for sharing this important perspective, Renee Herren !

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