The Last Straw

By |2018-10-01T15:22:25+00:00September 1st, 2018|
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Ian RuderI swore I wasn’t going to write about straws. I’ve read so many opinion pieces and news articles about the various bans popping up all over the west coast that I’ve even lost the desire to make jokes about how much they suck or how their supporters are relying on a straw man argument.

Following the story has been nothing short of surreal. In Washington, D.C., the government is dismantling our healthcare system and stripping away the protections we, people with disabilities, rely on. Two weeks ago, the woman President Trump appointed to oversee community living for the Department of Health and Human Services publicly said she favored “segregation” of people with disabilities.

Let that sink in.

The person who is supposed to be working to better integrate people with disabilities said she wants to separate us from our communities.

And we’re fighting about straws?

Drawing a parallel between the straw bans and institutionalizing people with disabilities might seem heavy-handed, but the two policies share more than a fundamental disregard for our community. They are both evidence of how many of our legislators have seemingly forgotten, or abandoned, common sense.

If more legislators still had their common sense, a bill like the Disability Integration Act wouldn’t be languishing in the halls of Congress. First introduced in 2015, the bill would ensure that people with disabilities have the right to live and receive the services they need at home, instead of in a nursing facility or institution. It makes sense from a financial perspective. It makes sense from a humanitarian perspective. It makes common sense. But apparently, that’s just not enough anymore.

How else can you begin to explain the straw bans?

Reading about all the municipalities that have set down this road, the one thing that becomes clear is that none of them took the time to think about how a ban would affect our community. It’s obvious in every backtracking statement, press release and after-the-fact “clarification.” They saw an easy eco-victory and they pounced.

And at the most basic level, I get it. I want to save the environment. I like turtles. Hell, I don’t know anyone who relies on plastic straws that wouldn’t be perfectly happy to give them up tomorrow if there was an equally functional, more eco-friendly product available. But there isn’t.

We put a man on the moon, you’d think we could build a next-gen straw. It’s encouraging to see creative projects like The Final Straw, a Kickstarter initiative that raised almost $2 million, try to devise such a solution, but until there is something that works just as well for everyone, it’s time for the ban proponents to slow their roll.

So far, very little damage has been done, and you could even argue that the public discussion that has come out of the flawed policy has been a positive. I’ve seen more people trying reusable straws for suitable drinks and fewer restaurants handing out plastic straws willy-nilly like garnishes.

These are good things. Let’s just not put straws before people with disabilities and move forward with a little common sense.