Bif Notes No. 9 Cream? Sugar? Ableism?

This was already in my topic list for today, but with Starbucks’ recent announcement about removing straws from their establishments, it seemed especially important to address the newest progress the #STRAWBAN movement has made lately. For those of you who aren’t familiar, several government agencies and eating establishments have recently stated their intent to ban the use of plastic disposable straws in an effort to reduce plastic waste that is harmful to the environment and a danger to several species. While environmental consciousness is important and well worth striving for, the decision to remove plastic disposable straws completely is being viewed by many as a rash and blatantly ableist choice.

There are so many people in the disability community who rely on disposable straws. They depend on being able to access disposable straws to maintain their independence. For many, their ability to drink is severely impeded without the use of straws, for some it becomes completely impossible. Taking away disposable straws will severely inhibit and endanger a large part of the disability community.

At this point in the argument many people bring up alternatives to disposable straws. But the simple truth is that if the alternatives were feasible options for everyone, that’s what people would use. The fact remains however that many of the most pushed for alternatives still pose barriers for people with disabilities. Metal straws are unsafe when used with hot liquids. Paper is often too flimsy. Other options pose threats to people with certain allergies. Then there is the very real factor of reusable straws being breeding grounds for bacteria. This is a very real danger to people who do not have the mobility or dexterity to make sure that their reusable straws get cleaned regularly. Also the cost of reusable straws, though not a problem for most, is often not an expense disabled people have the ability to spare.

Moving away from the flaws in alternatives to disposable straws momentarily, it is worth mentioning that the waste created by disposable straws is miniscule in comparison to other l products that disabled people don’t depend on to exist. It seems like it would be wiser to look at waste caused by things such as plastic bags, or even balloons, before a decision is made that will negatively impact the lives of millions. I’m sure there’s a way to save the turtles without endangering the disabled population, we should probably start there.


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