Plastic. Especially, plastic straws. They’re in the the news, they’re all over social media, there are signs and changes in all the big chains. And in one way, I totally understand that; we do need to take care of our planet, especially our oceans, and and it is massively important we teach the younger generations to do the same.
However. And it is a big however.
Going after plastic straws is not the way to go. Not only is it not objectively the most practical option when it comes to reducing the use of plastic, it is ableist. Hear me out.
People with a range of disablities and health conditions rely on straws on a daily basis. Speaking just from personal experience, I need to use straws for a range of reasons. When my hands are shaking too much. When my fingers and hands cannot support the weight, or are dislocating easily. When I’m laying in bed and moving my head makes me too dizzy. Sometimes my body is too shaky, and holding a mug is asking for spills and potential burns. My body can jerk suddenly, in pretty much any area, without warning, so again the risk of burns, or damage to my teeth. Drinking from a straw helps drinks stay down better with ny gastroperesis, which for thosr of you who are lucky enough to not be familiar with, means that things you’ve swallowed not staying down.
And these are just some examples, off the top of my head, that impact me. One person. If those are a few of the possibilities for one human being, the number of issues is endless.
So, straws are needed. The fact they need to be plastic is another issue.
Paper straws are fine…. as long as you don’t have any issues with your mouth and jaw. If you need to chew whilst drinking, have issues with textures, have a jaw that can clamp, or – again – goodnes knows how many other symptoms or problems that might impact on you drinking, straws are an essenital item.
Reusable straws are a great thing. Genuinely think they are awesome! Glass, ceramic, metal. There are even collapsible ones now, which go into a little bag that can clip onto your keys. Brilliant plan.
If. You. Are. Able. Bodied.
I’ve had people act as if the fact that plastic straws are being replaced by paper straws in mainstream cafés, and the fact there are options like reusable straws, wipes out the issue. It doesn’t, and that’s what this post is trying to stumble at. It doesn’t just erase the need for disabled people, because these things work for able bodied people. It’s not that simple.
I know that some – hopefully, most – people have come to the conclusion that all is solved simply because they haven’t considered the possibilities, and that’s okay. How can you know, unless you know? It’s the same with people not thinking about parking on the pavement until they see a wheelchair or guidedog. And then next time, hopefully, you park elsewhere.
That’s what I’m hoping this post will do. Don’t judge people for using straws. Don’t turn your nose up at those who are struggling. Just like other stereotypes and in built judgements, like homophobia and sexism, ableism is there and is prevalent. There are active prejudices and low level prejudices, and thinking that plastic straws are a novelty is the latter.
Whilst this post is mostly about straws, it is also worth as an aisde mentioning the extra ableism that goes on in regard to other plastic disabled people need. From ready meals to medication strips, syringes to vitamin bottles, there are all sorts of things that again, may seem optional or not needed if you are able bodied, but are things that have to be factored into your day to day life wheb you have health conditions.
I take six different medications on a dailt basis, plus extra, and eight different supplements when I can keep them down. One of my medications, for chronic pain, I take nine tablets a day. It comes in plastic strips of ten. So I go through nearly one a day. And that is just one med. I don’t have a choice about that. It’s not my fault. All I can do is take my tablets and try to function.
We do need to work on helping the enviroment as much as we possibly can. My son is a massive eco warrior, he is eight and already feels passionately about it; without wanting to blow my own horn, he wouldn’t be that way if he hadn’t been taught at least some of it. I am not heartless, but that’s rather my point. It needs to be a balance. There needs to be love both for the environment and for the people living in it.