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Some of us need straws: stop banning them

Nick Hughes

Opinion Editor

There has been a lot of buzz about the state of California banning the use of single-use straws. It is a win for the environmentalists, I will say that, and they need wins; with the corruption and downright denial of climate change by politicians. My question is this: why are you attacking those who need straws due to a disability? Let me be clear about this, I personally do not need a straw, but I do not see why we should take them away from those who do.

Renewable straws are not an answer for those with physical disabilities where straws are required. I know exactly what the retort will be. You could just buy a straw or you could bring straws with you. I will allow Vox columnist, S.E. Smith explain, “Reusable straws can be hard to maintain and sterilize, and may not be safe to use, while compostable products, which can dissolve in hot liquids, present a choking and allergen hazard. It’s always going to be a good idea for restaurants and coffee shops to keep plastic straws on hand for disabled people.”

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The issue is not really about straws for me. The real issue here is that people with disabilities have always been the recipients of the short end of the stick when it comes to movements like these. It is an ableism perspective for us to assume that banning straws will not hurt anyone. It does hurt the people who need the straws. Ableism, for those who do not know, is a source of discrimination against those who have disabilities. They can be physical, mental or a learning disability that someone can discriminate against. I am all for the environment and I will do all I can to support those fighting to save our planet, but I will withdraw that support when the claim that banning straws is better than letting someone with a disability die.

People with disabilities are sometimes called lazy because they want to keep straws. First off, that is ridiculous, and secondly, I would rather be lazy than dead. This argument can be made about so many types of disabilities. We might have to take medications because it helps us, we might use a cane because it helps us, and we might use straws because they help us.

What happened when people who require straws did not have access to them? The answer is simple, they died. Straws are not the enemy here. Plastic is the enemy to earth though; that much I can agree on. It makes me absolutely furious when I see a piece of plastic lodged in a turtle’s nose. That was unacceptable. It is also unacceptable to put the lives of people with disabilities before that of people who want to feel better by banning straws.

The solution is not banning straws, the solution is not banning plastic, and the solution is certainly not killing those with disabilities by enacting social change by supporting a cause that looks good on paper.  It is a simple fix. Change the way produce plastic. Make plastic less dangerous to make and distribute. We are a scientific species and I think we are better than this. People with disabilities deserve just as much as those without.