Plastic straw with the wheelchair icon

Are Plastic Straw Bans A Disability Access Issue?

Our world is in danger. Plastic trash and debris are piling up in our landfills and oceans, killing wildlife and introducing chemicals into the environment. Businesses and local governments are responding to this threat to our future by issuing hardline bans to stop this pollution. However, are they neglecting the needs of people with disabilities at the same time?

Do People with Disabilities Need Straws?

McDonald’s has banned single-use plastic straws in its British and Irish stores. Starbucks may follow the fast food chain’s example and ban these items at its stores too. The City of Seattle has banned plastic straws and utensils from its city, and now D.C. is looking to do the same thing. These measures are meant to help save the environment, but are they actually endangering people with disabilities?

For some people with disabilities, straws have become a staple of everyday life. For people who have tremors, it means they don’t have to risk spilling hot beverages on themselves. For people with conditions like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy, it’s often the only way they can drink a beverage without choking. This means straws are a key part of survival for many who have a disability.

Why Plastic Straw Bans Have Become a Disability Access Issue

If people with disabilities cannot have access to plastic straws while out and about, it severely limits where they can go and what they consume while they are out. Alternatives like paper straws often break down in drinks, making them an unreliable option. Other plastic straw alternatives require people to lift cups to their mouths, an action that risks spills for people with certain conditions. That leaves metal straws as a solution for many people with disabilities. However, these straws would have to be carried with that person everywhere they went. If that metal straw was ever forgotten or lost, then that person may be unable to consume any beverages until they find a replacement.

These considerations make plastic straw bans an undue burden upon people with disabilities. This forces them to give up their access to normal businesses and activities. This is viewed by many advocates and people with disabilities as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If businesses or cities made plastic straws available upon request, it could still have a positive impact on the environment. Such a policy would also protect the interests of those who suffer from disabling conditions. But will government officials and business owners take policies like this into consideration instead of bans?

The Tulsa disability attorneys at Troutman & Troutman, P.C. are looking out for the interests of Oklahomans with disabilities. To learn more about this issue and others that face the Tulsa disability community, keep following our blog.


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