Adaptations & Accessibility

Little Plastic Straw, Where Art Thou?

Plastic straw in a glass of coke (or Cola Cola)

We live in a society that is growing conscious of the harm we do to this planet and how we can reduce it. And that’s great!

We only have one planet. If this one goes down the drain we and our future children cannot decide to move to Mars or another galaxy far far away. We’re stuck here and it’s important that we are aware of that and look after our planet. Dad and I recycle everything we can, our recycling bags are often full to the brim and I think it is important to help the environment the best we can.

However, I think we have to be mindful that some things have a hidden use that not everyone will be aware of or even consider. Especially if it does not affect us or someone we know, directly.

The Plastic Straw

Lately, plastic straws have been a hot topic in the news. Many places are considering banning these beauties to help the environment – minus the cartons for kids, because you know, kids are different, right?

Recently, the BBC released a video to reduce our usage of plastic.


While I will be using the BBC video to make my point, I want to clearly state that I do not believe that the BBC are attacking disabled people or trying to limit us in any way.

The information in this video is provided in a ‘most cases’ scenario and I am here to inform you of the times when one particular suggestion does not work.

For the most part, these suggestions are great but not all of them are practical for everyone. For me, this is the straw!

The “advanced technology” known as the mouth is not known to be faultless.

We’ve all had that moment when we’re enjoying a nice cup of tea or coffee and for whatever reason, the liquid misses our mouths and stains the brightly coloured clothes we are wearing.

If you have a disability, this may happen more – depending on the disability and how it affects the individual. It affects me and people I know.

Don’t ban the straws

At home

Before I tell you why I think the straws shouldn’t be banned, let me give you a brief detail of how I drink at home.

It took me awhile to be able to use glasses and cups. Until the age of ten, I regularly drunk from a baby/toddler’s bottle.

Now, I have a few mugs that have wide enough handles with a good distance away from the base of the mug. This helps me to grip hold of the mug and prevent myself from burning my fingers with accidental contact. I can drink a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate without any issue.

I can drink a glass of milkshake, or squash, juice whatever I want in the right shaped and sized glass.

But it’s a different story when I go out to eat.

Eating out

Many cafés and restaurants have cups that have narrow handles, or handles that are so small you’re lucky if you can get your pinky finger in.  The glasses are too tall, too heavy, the wrong shape for me to hold.

These cups, I cannot use without a straw. So naturally, I ask for one.

I ask for a straw if I have a takeaway cup too because, for whatever reason, I cannot drink from those takeaway cups. That is with the lid on and off. So I slip the straw into the hole in the lid and off I am, with my drink.

And it won’t be a simple fix to change the cups and glasses to ones I can use because the ones I can use may not be suitable for someone else.

How does the ban affect me?

As I’m sure many of us do, I make a note in my head of places where I can eat and drink.  Where I know I can trust on both the quality of the food and the quality of the service. Places that give me straws and teaspoons so I don’t have to search for a place that will match my needs.

Only this call to ban plastic straws has limited me more than I was already limited previously. I am never sure if I will walk into one of my trusted restaurants or cafés and be told that I cannot have a straw because it will have an impact on the environment.

I went to a café in Birmingham with my mom recently that I knew once had straws – along with the mugs I could not use. I ordered my tea and asked for a straw. “Sorry, we don’t have those, saving the planet and helping the environment and all.”

My mom went to the café opposite and got me a straw from there. Again, I am not against people helping the environment, I think that’s great but…

Why are shopping bags different?

A few years ago, we had a law to charge people a minimum of 5p for a plastic bag. We didn’t ban them completely. Why?

Because people still needed them. It was a deter to get people to remember to bring their own without crippling the public who did, for whatever reason, forget to bring a plastic bag.

But the average person does not need a straw and so the minority, which in this case is the disabled, must have their independence stripped.

Why not take my own?

Now you may say I can buy my own straw, reusable ones exist etc. The problem with the reusable ones is hygiene. It would have to go back into my bag, stained with tea.

I cannot wash it out while I am out unless I use the toilets and all the germs in those… no thanks. Not to mention, I have to remember to bring out enough things without worrying about whether I have a straw I can use – imagine if you had to bring your own cutlery with you each time?

Instead, why don’t the cafés and restaurants use alternatives?

I would happily pay 5-10p on top of my drink for a straw. Sell them to customers who ask for medical reasons.

In some cases, I would use straws that are reusable, providing the hygiene matches the rest of the café/restaurant, ones made from paper, ones that are biodegradable. Any of these alternatives would help the environment, because unless you need a straw, would you pay 5-10p for one?

Alternative Straws

If you wanted a straw, the paper is less harmful to the environment. As is one that is washed by the café.

However, the alternative straws (bamboo, paper, glass, biodegradable) all have their own drawbacks too.

All the alternatives have drawbacks. Cost is a factor, but durability and safety are also key features.

Disabled people have many and varied impairments, which are impacted by the use of alternatives to single-use flexible plastic straws. Biodegradable straws are not designed for hot drinks. Glass can shatter (especially if a disabled person has a “bite” issue).

Rosie Moriarty-Simmonds, Wales Online, May 2018

While I personally don’t mind using them, it’s not nice finding paper dissolving in your mouth and as Rosie says, not all of them will be heat proof…

I am not the only one who feels the same about this issue and I am not the only one concerned about my independence to socialise outside the house if these little beauts disappear on these “ban the straw wagon”.

Rosie Moriarty-Simmonds wrote a similar article in Wales Online  (linked above).

These little plastic tubs allow me to enjoy a drink with friends and family. Without them, my only choices are to stay indoors or to not drink while socialising. Neither are a healthy solution.

So yes, we need to help the environment, but also remember that these straws are just as much needed as the plastic bag. They are essential to some people for medical reasons.

To me, these plastic straws should be on the list of reasonable adaptions to make something accessible.

Thanks for reading

Please. Share this. Give me your opinion and thoughts and share on your social media. Use Rosie’s hashtag: #Saveourstraws and follow Rosie at @RosieMS on Twitter to keep updated on this whole straw business.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Please click follow for more unmissable content. See you Tuesday for another edition of Berg’s Book Club: Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum. For now, I am going to enjoy my lovely cup of tea.

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Yep, that’s a Doctor Who Mug…. and what a lovely handle it has



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19 responses to “Little Plastic Straw, Where Art Thou?”

    • I have 3 mugs that I practically use all the time – this one, another Doctor Who one and another that is tardis blue with cogish-like patterns so even though it’s supposed to be linked to the Empire State Building, it’s Doctor Who in my mind. 😉

  1. This is the argument I have been making as well. Mom is terminally ill and her tremors are so strong she can’t hold a mug without spilling things now. So she has to use a straw. <3

    • Hopefully the more people who make a noise about this, the more likely we can keep the straws for those who need them until there’s a good alternative. ^_^ feel free to share this

  2. What a great post. I feel like this discussion is often framed as being the environment vs people with disabilities. But you respect the importance of environmental stewardship and the needs of the disabled.

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