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The final straw in ignoring the disabled community

by Youmna El Halabi September 25, 2018
The final straw in ignoring the disabled community

The straw ban might help the environment, but it completely disregards one group of people

The excessive pollution the Earth has been plagued with in the last few decades is no secret to anyone. One can simply take a stroll down any beach to realize how we have failed to maintain a certain level of purification. Discarding cigarette butts, beer bottles and plastic water bottles in the sand and the ocean, as if the world is our dumpster. Shame on us. What happened to the world being our oyster?

In spite of the blatant disregard some humans have for the planet, one cannot ignore the numerous initiatives taken against excess pollution, urging individuals to take action. Greenpeace, for example, is a world-renowned organization aiming to restore the Earth to its former clean-slate glory and minimize environmental crises as best they can.

Lately, many countries and even some corporations around the world have taken it upon themselves to reduce plastic waste by banning plastic straws, since it is one of the many sources of ocean pollution. While this may be a step in the right direction for environmental issues, there is one thing that has not been taken into consideration.

When political, social or environmental solutions are discussed among government officials, I imagine they have a list of people they wish to please. Will this benefit women in general? Do we fear negative repercussions for people of colour? Are we sure the LGBTQ+ community is not badly affected by this? I am by no means critical when using this caricatural image of governmental discussion concerning serious matters. On the contrary, I believe I am being quite utopian when I say governments actually take all these people into consideration when making decisions.

Nonetheless, throughout the years, certain decisions have been made for the benefit of the aforementioned communities. And yet, more often than not, a specific group of people are blatantly disregarded: the disabled community. Disabled individuals may have their own parking spots, but even those get stolen by disrespectful people. I have even noticed at times, public transport isn’t accomodating to individuals in wheelchairs.

And now, while the ban on plastic straws is helpful to the environment, it is detrimental to a significant portion of the disabled community. It is a wonderful step toward bettering the planet, something even the disabled community doesn’t fail to applaud cities for. However, people seem to forget that the purpose of straws is not just to make your iced coffee easier to drink; it is vital to many disabled people’s lives.

I am by no means well-equipped to say this nor do I speak on behalf of the community, as an able-bodied woman. Nonetheless, I do not fail to see that more often than not, they are being ignored.

British YouTuber and TV presenter Jessica Kellgren-Fozard explained her take on the matter in an 11-minute video, stating that as a disabled woman, the ban of plastic straws was “the last straw.” It is another instance where the disabled community has been ignored. Diagnosed at 17 with hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies, she has difficulty gripping objects due to her weak limbs. Therefore, the use of plastic straws in her everyday life is vital.

In the video, Kellgren-Fozard explained that while the ban is helpful for the environment, plastic straw pollution only accounts for 0.025 per cent of oceanic pollution. It kind of makes you wonder why there is a sudden insistence on banning straws when there are far worse things to take care of, right?

I personally believe this governmental initiative (adopted by the US, U.K., and parts of Montreal, among others) is a step in the right direction. However, it is not perfect, as members of the disabled community have highlighted. It also made me think how we are often quick to take into account gender equality, racial issues and sexuality, but disabled people are oftentimes forgotten. While taking positive steps like banning plastic in general to help the environment is good, we shouldn’t forget about certain groups of people who might be deeply affected by such a ban. I believe with constant communication and learning, we can all build towards a clean planet suitable for all.

Graphic by spooky_soda

 

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