Disability Rights Advocates Point Out Problem with Banning Plastic Straws

Disability advocate Sharon Shapiro-Lacks wants plastic straw bans to be more inclusive.

“When I go to an establishment that says, sorry we’re instructed not to have straws, I feel like they don’t want me as a customer. I feel discriminated against,” she explained. “The solution is so easy. All you have to do is have a decent supply of traditional plastic, bendable straws within reach for anyone who specifically requests a plastic straw.”

More and more companies have announced bans on plastic straws in an effort to curb single-use plastic’s effect on the environment. But disability groups say plastic straws are necessary for some. Alternative materials like paper weaken when wet and are hard to control. And metal straws run the risk of burning its user when used for hot drinks, and can also chip teeth if a person’s disability causes them to bite down.

Shapiro-Lacks, who is the executive director of the Yad HaChazakah Jewish Disability Empowerment Center, is trying to appeal to society’s social conscious that forgets the disability community in its fight to protect the environment.
“Instead of saying there are solutions out there, and trying to convince us that this may work or that can work, just believe us. Allow us to request plastic straws,” she said.