Some People Need Those Straws

One of the big trends I’ve noticed these days, and I’m sure you have as well, is the push to ban plastic drinking straws. The effort has been spearheaded by environmentalists who have pointed out the massive amount of waste they cause as well as the danger they present for wildlife (though the sourcing and accuracy of some of the claims aren’t exactly crystal clear). I am all for protecting the environment and animals in particular (I admit, I even backed a non-disposable, metal straw solution on Kickstarter), however, I am glad to see at least a few people stop and say, wait a minute, maybe this effort needs to be more thought out. Those holding their hand up are doing so because they are looking out for the disabled. You see, some items, that yes, can be harmful for the environment, are necessary for those with disabilities. I worry that some of the campaigns against drinking straws will not only create an inconvenience, but vilify those who need them to live.

My experience

Flexible, plastic drinking straws are extremely important to people with many disabilities. Many people who cannot use their limbs require these items in order to drink, or even eat. Metal and paper straws simply don’t have the combined sturdiness and flexibility to make their use feasible for these people. I’ve had experience with this myself, not in my own case of MS, but with my grandfather, who also suffered from the disease. When his disease progressed enough that he could no longer use his limbs or even tilt his head, he was still able to drink and eat (we’d puree food for him, even steak), by us holding a cup, with a bendable plastic drinking straw, up to his mouth. Not only was this important to get sustenance into him, it was massively important to his quality of life. He couldn’t do much, but at least he could still enjoy and taste some things. In many ways, I think it was one of the few things that still made him feel like an actual human being. His is one of the more extreme cases, but many people have disabilities that require these straws.

Shaming us

There are a lot of items that are maybe not the best for the environment, but that make life more bearable for the disabled. I spoke in a previous article about oranges being pre-peeled and sold in plastic, and how beneficial something like that was for me because of what MS has done to my hands. So much backlash about that would have made me reluctant to buy one, had they actually kept them on shelves. Another item I use often, K-cups, those single use coffee portions, are often vilified as well. They are terrible for the environment, and I do try to make my coffee other ways, but there are times where I need to use them or I’m not having coffee that day.

There are other ways

There are a lot of items like plastic straws, easy open containers, and K-cups in this world that are bad for the environment but have become incredibly important to the disabled. A convenience for many is often a necessity for others. However, instead of putting the onus on companies to make a more sustainable version, people jump on the “ban wagon”, shaming companies who offer the products and those that dare use them. Life is hard enough for people with disabilities, and I wish a great effort could be made to innovate and educate, rather than simply ban and vilify.

If you rely on any products that fit in with this conversation, please share them in the comments!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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