Life / Health

Anti-straw campaign sucks, disability advocates say

For those who require drinking straws, the latest environmental push is "missing the mark."

Reusable plastic, metal and glass straws are all available, but they're expensive compared to the conventional disposable plastic kind.

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Reusable plastic, metal and glass straws are all available, but they're expensive compared to the conventional disposable plastic kind.

Last week, Metro reported on the growing movement to curb the use of plastic drinking straws because of environmental concerns.
 
From the feedback we’ve received since, we’ve learned that for many people, straws don’t “suck” as the slogan goes – access to them is essential.
 
After putting a call out on social media, we heard from people with conditions as diverse as recurrent cold sores, facial palsy, temporomandibular joint dysfunction and a phobia of germs; as well as parents of small children who can’t yet manoeuvre a cup to their mouths.
 
Our colleague Miriam Osborne, managing editor of special features at Star Metro Media, sees the “straws suck” movement as “very ableist.”
 
Osborne, whose disability affects the strength of her arms and hands, isn’t able to lift a glass.
 
“I certainly understand the destruction of plastic straws. It just feels like a very easy way to pretend you are taking environmental issues seriously,” she said.
 
When Osborne was out with friends in Toronto a few months ago, her group actually got up and left a pub that didn’t offer straws for environmental reasons.
 
“To me, not having straws is as much of an accessibility issue as not having a button on the door.”
 
There are (somewhat more expensive) alternatives to disposable plastic straws: Paper, glass, hard plastic and stainless steel versions are all available.
 
But they’re not always practical, explained disability advocate Andrew Gurza, host of the Disability After Dark podcast.  
Andrew Gurza, who hosts the Disability After Dark podcast, said people with disabilities have been

Facebook / Alice Xue Photography

Andrew Gurza, who hosts the Disability After Dark podcast, said people with disabilities have been "left out of the conversation" about the harms of plastic drinking straws.

 
“Disability is so nuanced. You can't say, ‘They'll find another way.’ Well, what if they can't? What if they won't?” he said.
 
Gurza said media coverage of anti-straw campaigns is “really missing the mark.”
 
WWe should be looking at oil and things like that, not taking away what I need to survive,” he said. “We are so quick to jump on the sea turtles, and the disabled person is in the corner like, ‘Hey, I just want to go (out) with my friends and I need a straw' … once again, we are left out of the conversation.”   

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