So I stumbled across a twitter thread today, quite innocuous but linked to a vital and important issue. Plastic straws. Now I know we have all seen that awful video of the poor turtle with the straw up his nose, but in case you haven’t…
Here at ungagged we try really hard to support all environmental campaigns, and reducing plastics in our oceans is just one of the many causes we ran on our activist advent calendar. I personally recycle as much as I can and try to ensure I buy products with environmentally friendly packaging when I can. We have 5 recycling bins including a food waste bin, as I suspect many of you guys have at home too.
It was recently suggested we would have to increase our recycling capabilities as we brexited the European Union, so it’s no surprise that the government has encouraged companies trying to cut down on unnecessary plastic products across the board.
One of these very admirable moves include banning plastic cotton buds. Replacing them with a biodegradable paper poled cotton bud. The other announcement was from multiple retailers and companies themselves, the banning of plastic straws.
Now, I really don’t have a problem with companies restricting the amount of straws they stock, I don’t even have a problem with biodegradable alternatives that work. What I object to is being told, as a disabled person who regularly needs a straw to be able to drink, that I can buy my own metal alternative or the company supply a reusable washed one.
Oh. My. Gods! Yukkers *vom emoji* 🤢🤮
So first off, never mind the blatantly obvious fact some disabled folk have upper limb impairment which means it can be difficult to hold cups and glasses. Yes we usually have our own drinks container, often with special handles or grips and built in straws, but most of the time the straw has 3 day old water in it or some disgusting electrolyte powder residue from that time you had the skits. And like we are all aware some disabled folk are more prone to disease and infection, and myself having an autoimmune disorder, I don’t really fancy drinking out a “washed”, “communal” straw. I’ve seen dishwashers in bars.
Now the tone of this article is gonna drastically change. If you cant interpret the point I’m digging at then I probably can’t help you past this stage.
Before you comment on why doesn’t a disabled person just buy a metal or wooden straw, or use a paper straw, answer this. Do you have one of those bamboo toothbrushes? Have you recently measured the mould growth? Do you carry around your own cutlery EVERY time you grab a coffee? Oh you don’t use a straw to drink hot drinks? That’ll be why you think paper straws are the perfect solution.
99% of my mobility aids contains some sort of plastic. My wheelchair has plastic trim, my crutches half plastic. I have a plastic pirate themed orthotic brace for my foot. I have a plastic bath seat. I have a plastic toilet stool (not my stool, that’s organic. Hashtag: poo emoji 💩)I have a plastic gripper grabber, plastic fans, plastic pads, plastic sheets (sometimes). You cannot plastic guilt trip a disabled person. Most of our furniture is plastic. It’s not a style choice like some funky 70’s LA interior design magazine or hipster Bakelite revival.
Telling a disabled person they can carry a straw about with them or trying to tell them how they can best adapt to their own disabilities, is a bit fucking stupid. No one know’s a disabled person’s capabilities and adaptabilities better than the disabled person themselves, or their primary carer. Swallowing can be an issue for some disabled people. People with physical disabilities and mental/neuro disorders alike. Just cos you have a granny with arthritis doesn’t mean you know what’s best for Tam’s C1 spinal cord injury and resulting impairment. With all your best intentions, just gonnae no?
A disabled person most likely has a kit, a bug out bag if you will. I have medicine, patches, pads, a tool kit, a water bottle (aforementioned star wars container with Jedi grip), spare clothes, waterproofs, a hand pump, and a scarf (to double as a blanket) all in the back of my wheelchair. I also have to remember my phone, my wallet, my disabled parking badge, my crutch, my keys, my bag for life and my trolley coin token thing cos there is no way I have a pound coin cash, and you want me to remember to take a straw so you feel better about the banning of plastics? No bother I’ll just die of thirst in the supermarket queue while the lassie helps to pack my 20 PLASTIC bags for life. Not only does remembering such a shitload of stuff impact my cognitive issues, it can be stressful and expensive.
Remembering a wee straw might not seem like a big deal, especially if it’s something you need. It might not even seem expensive. Buy a multipack from the pound shop eh? But when being disabled is already costing a premium, and putting barriers in way of our independence, a small insignificant drinking tube seems trivial. But when you sometimes have to ask for a key to the toilet, plead for access to a ramp, be reassessed on congenital and progressive disorders, a wee straw feels like the final straw.
please don’t take this article too seriously. If you want to find out more please go check out the amazing work @jamieszymko is doing in highlighting the issue.
Please don’t be an ableist jerk and think before you tweet.
And please don’t get me started on the issue of pre-chopped vegetables. That involves knives. *angry emoji*
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