Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why Straws Matter

You may have seen the articles in the news lately about cities around the US that have decided to ban or limit the use of plastic straws in restaurants. The point is to limit plastic waste, and help keep the oceans clean of clutter and garbage. On the surface, these things sound great, and sound like things I would totally support. Except... I can't.

My need for straws is something of a running joke between me and my family/friends (don't worry, I'm in on the joke). I ask for straws everywhere I go - restaurant, coffee shops, my own house. Cups and glasses are heavy for me - I can't lift them to my mouth and tip them to be able to drink. And if the liquid gets too low and I have to tip my neck back a little bit? Well, if my next tips back, I can't get it back up by myself. So straw are a necessity for me.

So things that a straw ban worry me. I'm not the only person with a disability who needs a straw to drink. I think we rush to these extremes so quickly that we don't stop to think about the full picture, and how these bans might have negative impact on large groups of people. Does that mean every time I go to Starbucks or out to dinner, I need to make sure I bring enough straws for every drink I might have?

I'm more that fine with restaurants only giving out a straw if a customer asks for one (which, honestly, is what I think happens most of the time anyway). But banning them altogether has vast consequences - hopefully unintentional ones - that would make navigating social situations considerably more difficult for someone like me.

This is why compromise is key. Make sure all people are represented in the room where policy decisions like this are being made. All it takes is one voice pointing out the problems with bans like these - but you have to give people the chance to speak, and make sure you're listening.

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