Letter to the editor: Before you ban straws, listen to people with disabilities

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Scott Wieser using a straw. — photo by Mary Helen Kennerly

By Scott Wieser

To write this letter, I used a headstick (a long curved pointer attached to a headpiece) to type. And to drink, I use a plastic straw.

When I’m out to eat or at work, I usually bring my own. Able-bodied people could, too. But if an able-bodied person forgets theirs, they can still drink from a cup. If I’m at a restaurant and can’t find mine, I’m out of luck. Before the able-bodied world fixed on straws as their feel-good cause, the fact that restaurants provided them was an accommodation disabled people could count on. I think providing straws could fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act, because businesses need to make reasonable accommodations, but in this climate the ADA offers little security. It’s a step backward for people with disabilities already living under a president known for his barely-ADA-compliant buildings.

I understand that there may be some alternatives to the plastic bendy straw, which for so many of us is a literal lifesaver, but these alternatives are too expensive to be widely accessible, and/or don’t meet our needs. And it’s frustrating to feel like the welfare of a turtle is prioritized over the welfare of me and many of my peers. It’s not that able-bodied people don’t care about us, but that they just don’t know. We have had almost no input to the conversation, even though it’s an issue which affects our lives more drastically than those with the loudest voices. A technology we depend on for life is now subject to faddish demonization. It’s frankly pretty alarming.

I work at Systems Unlimited as data entry staff, and daily see the way that plastic straws save our lives. Here are some pictures of my friends and peers who’d like to give face to the other side of this debate. Photos by Mary Helen Kennerly

Katie S.
Jim B.: “Coffee first.”
Jill R. Her friend, Lindsey W., attends dayhab with her at Systems Unlimited, and responded to the calls to ban straws: “If Jill can’t use a straw, Jill can’t drink! Jill gets thirsty!”
Doug T: “Sure. We could ban plastic straws and just hope there’s an eco-friendly alternative ready to replace them. Yeah right!”
Charity L.
Brandon A.

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