The Plastic Straw Ban and Its Burden on People Living with Disabilities [IEP 039]
With the recent ban on plastic straws in various cities across the U.S., Amanda and I are discussing how this ban, which helps the environment, negatively affects people living with disabilities. It places the burden on people living with disabilities to have to request straws or maybe even carry their own everywhere they go since it is difficult, and often impossible, to drink beverages without straws. That’s what we’re exploring in this episode.
Full show transcript at the bottom of this post.
What We Discuss in This Episode
- The recent ban on plastic straws in various cities across the US and what affect it has on people with disabilities
- For many, removing plastic straws from their regular consumption is not difficult. However, people living with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the ban
- Should restaurants and coffee shops continue to have straws in case a person requests it specifically?
- Plastic straw alternatives, like paper straws, are often not good alternatives
- Are we, as a society, being conscious about our choices every day and is this straw ban merely a fad?
- What can we do every day to help reduce the harm to society and still take into account people with special needs?
- Have we become too politically correct as a society? Is that a good or bad thing?
- The importance of having open conversations about tough subjects in order to grow
Thank you for listening!
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Full Show Transcript
Vickie Brett: Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.
Amanda Selogie: I’m Amanda Selogie. We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism.
Vickie Brett: Each week we’re gonna explore new topics which are going to educate and empower others.
Amanda Selogie: And give them a platform to enact change in education and level the playing field.
Vickie Brett: Hi, your favorite girls are back. I don’t why I said that.
Amanda Selogie: I guess we are back. Has it been a long time?
Vickie Brett: Ladies, ladies, not girls.
Amanda Selogie: Yes, that is true.
Vickie Brett: What am I saying?
Amanda Selogie: We’re women.
Vickie Brett: What am I saying? Yeah.
Amanda Selogie: We’re not supposed to say ‘girls’ in the workplace. It’s not proper. Although, shouldn’t we be allowed to say if we wanna be called girls, we should be allowed to be called girls?
Vickie Brett: It’s interesting that you say that ’cause I’m really excited about our pod today because it’s just like, about your experience, right? If you’ve had positive experiences then yeah, maybe it should be okay. But everybody has different experiences and so then … but as soon as I said it I was like, “Uh …” we’re always talking about [inaudible 00:01:14]. But there was a show, Girls, right, and it’s just like a particular time and place.
Amanda Selogie: Well, yeah, and it’s also, I mean, and I hate to say it but it’s like … if we wanna be called girls or we call each other girls it’s very different than if there was a man in the office that …
Vickie Brett: Yes.
Amanda Selogie: Called us girls. But like, if we’re calling ourselves girls and we’re okay with them … I don’t know. It’s a hard, touchy subject I guess. That kinda goes into … I think these days with the political climate things are becoming difficult to talk about, and that’s why we started this podcast in the first place is that we wanted to change the conversation. We wanted to start a conversation about positivity. You know, whenever we talk about how we want to change the perception of disabilities to the abilities, you know, what people living with disabilities should be known for. Their great qualities, the things that they can do, and using their disability as a superpower. We talked about that before.
So the same notion goes towards, can’t we think about the positive things? It’s really important to talk about the troublesome things that we find problematic and how to change it, but I think in general we all could stand to be a little bit kinder to each other. I mean, I always say I love how Ellen DeGeneres always ends her show with, “Be kind to one another.” I think it’s so important and we see that on social media all the time, right? Someone bashing another person. We had just gotten tagged from a mutual friend for another friend’s gender reveal and it was a meme.
I had seen the meme and I didn’t see, it was like a plane that was [inaudible 00:02:50] a bunch of this red powder and the top of it said, “These gender reveals are getting out of control.” I didn’t see that part, I only saw the other part. Then once I got into it, I’m looking and the reality is that the picture was taking from, it was like a firefighter’s plane dropping some kind of chemical that would take out a fire, right? The people commenting were like, “Why do you gotta make this into a joke? It’s really serious,” and it’s like, well this person was not making a joke about firefighters but just talking about gender reveals in general.
It’s like, I think we see that all the time. Things that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Vickie Brett: Took the words right out of my mouth. I think it’s more so, we’re just getting into this topic today. So what had kind of [spurned 00:03:37] all of this was I’m sure you guys have been seeing the no more straws, right? No more plastic straws, the ban on plastic straws. NPR actually, who I follow on Facebook, had a really interesting article. It dropped on July 11th and the title is, “Why people with disabilities want bans on plastic straws to be more flexible,” super cute, very creative.
It was funny because just in our own office, Amanda, who is a big believer in when you’re drinking black coffee if you drink it through a straw it doesn’t stain your teeth. So she had had plastic straws for a minute, and then you had decided to order for the office silicone straws.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, which is interesting because you were the environmental prodigy before. I mean, I had plastic straws and plastic bottles at home and I slowly switched to the pitcher in my fridge instead of the bottles, and I got the reusable straws for myself. It was more of a conscious decision for myself and partly it was cost, right? Doing something reusable is cheaper than getting disposable something. You know, and one of the hashtags I saw on this article was #stopsucking.
But you know, I had seen how people were trying to … same way we do the plastic bags for the groceries, I’ve been using reusable bags for a very long time. I know a couple years ago it got banned in Huntington’s and then it got repealed, so it’s no longer. But for a hot minute, everyone was having to use it. I don’t see a problem with that. I keep it in my car, I use them all the time, it’s not a big deal. So I kind of stopped using the plastic water bottles and then I stopped using the plastic straws. It was a decision for me that it wasn’t that hard because I can do it, right? It’s not difficult for me to put the bags back in my car. It’s not difficult for me to refill a bottle of water. It’s not difficult for me to clean the silicone or metal straws.
So I did it at home, and then I realized we had these straws at the office and I go, “Oh, we need to do it in the office.” So I got them for the office and then Vickie came across this article.
Vickie Brett: So it’s interesting, ’cause there was another article on July 9th, 2018 from the Los Angeles Times at my old environment law … actually, yeah. I guess it was an intro to environmental law. I took it in … or environmental science by [Ms. Duran 00:05:56], shout out to [Ms. Duran 00:05:57]. He had posted, and the title is, “Environmentally minded Californians love to recycle, but it’s no longer doing any good.” Right? So for me, California, growing up in California and recycling bottles and cans it was just always in my house.
It was just always something that we did, and it’s funny to see people, you know, everyone always makes fun of Leonardo DiCaprio because he’s so environmentally forward in trying to change legislation, but he’s getting a private jet. Right? So it’s just like, there’s just certain things that it’s just that way. So when I saw the straw thing, you know, that’s just one less thing that you can use. I know it kinda went viral because there were videos of sea turtles, I think, and they had plastic straws in their noses and so then it was just like this whole trend.
So yeah, I saw this article and where Amanda was kinda going with it is you know, she’s capable of doing many things. That was the point of view, or one of the points of view of this article was that, you know, did they even consult people with disabilities about this? Is it something where, okay, they’re saying, “Oh, use the biodegradable ones, they’re made out of paper.” Well, you know, if they’re trying to use it for more than an hour, those do, they break. Like, they’re biodegradable.
Sometimes with the metal if they’re conducting really hot or really cold, know any better as the person that is being taken care of and it’s really hot and then you sip … so they had all these different point of views, but I think what really resonated with us was you know, it’s always putting the responsibility on the person with the disability. It’s like, we are free to walk the streets of Spain in the cobblestone and all the curbs. They literally have no handicap … I’m not saying no, this is a couple years ago when I was in Spain. They may have been changing things, but my experience was that it would’ve been very difficult if I was in a wheelchair to get around.
So you know, we had had a podcast earlier in the year regarding the ADA and the lawsuits if there’s no wheelchair ramp. It’s still on the obligation of the person with the disability to say, “Hey, I need wheelchair ramp,” or, “It needs to be wider.” That’s why we wanted to kind of spur this debate with the article as this basis regarding the straws just so you just get a whole picture of it. We’re not saying one way or the other one is bad over the other.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, we started hearing people kind of on the opposite of saying, “This ban isn’t flexible because if you have a ban then restaurants don’t have any other choice,” right? They’re required to not have a single straw. So then people started saying, “Well what if the restaurants are allowed to have the straws, they just don’t hand them out? Then that’s where the argument of the burden comes in, “Well, if they have them behind the counter and you’re required to ask for them the it’s still putting the burden on, you know, say the person with the disability.”
I think my perspective is more so, look. If you are capable of using something that’s more environmentally friendly and you become more conscious about I put a reusable Starbucks cup in my car so whenever I go to Starbucks and get an iced tea I ask them to use my cup. If I’m having someone in the office go grab me coffee or anything, I ask for them not to grab a straw for me. But that’s not to say that the restaurant should not have them, because there’s definitely people who need to be able to use these tools. I mean, that’s why they’re there. That’s why they were created, right? Because there’s a certain aspect.
In this article, there were stories of a bunch of people who, why they really do need these straws. So I think if us as a community can change the perception from it needs to be all or nothing, but rather, if you are able bodied and you are able to use the environmentally friendly, like a reusable straw, use it. Or maybe when you’re at the store, don’t ask for a straw, or if they try to give one to you then say, “No, I don’t need it.” I don’t think it needs to be a complete ban. I think the majority of people as a whole say, “Well, I don’t need it so I’m not gonna use it,” then it still serves the same purpose but then there’s still the ability for it to be there for the people who need it. I think that’s kind of a middle ground, maybe.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, and the article points out that plastic bags are already politicized. You know, the plastic water bottles are endemic as well. What about all the plastic cups in all the supermarkets? So they were wondering if plastic straws was, as the article says, “A playful alternative and a gateway plastic to the larger and more serious plastic pollution conversation.” So it’s kind of just dipping your toe into getting people to start thinking about the environment.
I’d already kind of talked about some of the issues with metal straws, the paper ones fall apart too quickly, some of the silicone straws are actually not as flexible as one would think, which is important for people with mobility challenges. Another point that was brought up is that they need to be washed. You know what, quite frankly, if they had one that worked that was environmentally friendly and they forgot it that day, I can’t go to work, you know, after work happy hour drinks ’cause I forgot my straw at home or whatever. I think that that’s where Amanda and I were trying to come from in terms of you know, how is this world made? It was made for able bodied people to get around until you can’t get around and you’ve tried every other alternative. One doesn’t really think, you know, like, “Oh, it’s because of my disability that I’m being discriminated against,” but that’s at the forefront of so many people’s minds.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, and one thing I think about even though I definitely am one of these people that I definitely did change my straws because I think it’s one small thing that I can do and if it’s something that I can do to help the environment even if … you know, people are saying, “Oh, well, plastic straws are just a small part, what about all these other things?” Well, it’s better than nothing. I hate that argument if you can’t do it all, don’t do anything. Don’t try. Well, no, no, no, no, we should be doing whatever little thing we can.
But it does make me think, well, is this a fad? Do you remember … I feel like when we were kids, there was the big push for … you know if you got a six pack of soda in those plastic rings and how if you got a six pack of soda, you had to cut each section of those rings, and we always did that. Do you see people doing that anymore? I mean, I don’t buy soda so I don’t really do that. But I don’t feel like that’s as big of a trend anymore. So was that a fad when we were a kid and now this is the new fad, are people still doing that? I mean, I think goes to that bigger question of, are we all as a community, as a society being conscious about the way we live our lives? Are there things, like whether they’re small or not that we could be doing to help the environment or even help other people.
Like you go to a restaurant, or you go to the grocery store. How many people hold the door open for you? How many people do you hold the door open for? That’s a small thing that would help anybody, right? Or even just being nice to anybody. I think that’s part of the conversation, I guess, of like, there’s nothing wrong with doing something small to help someone or the world so we shouldn’t, I guess, go against that. But then we also need to be considerate of the needs of people. That needs to be considered, and so when some of these bans in the cities, I think it was like Seattle had done it, are creating these full bans, are they considering all these sides? That’s part of the problem.
Vickie Brett: Well, the exceptions. Just because there are exceptions doesn’t mean that people will even follow those exceptions and I think that that’s just like, the point. I get it, we’re in a very PC world. You can’t say this, you can’t say that. Now we’re talking about this straw ban that probably doesn’t affect your life. But it’s more so trying to, you know, you walk a mile in another person’s shoes type of scenario. ‘Cause at the end of the article, one of the activists had said, “You’re putting this burden on disabled people to come up with a solution. You’re not asking companies that manufacture straws to come up with a version that works with us. You won’t even take the bus instead of driving your car somewhere, how many of you are willing to die for the environment?”
I think she, you know, it’s very tongue and cheek but I think where she was kinda trying to go with it is that this world, we get it, was not made for people with disabilities. I think that that is the whole point of Amanda and I having … you know, ’cause Amanda’s on the other side. I think maybe more companies started using the little cardboard, right? Instead of six packs, or now I see it’s the hard plastic on top of like, beer cans now. It’s just like, well, yeah, we should’ve tried to be pushing for that back, and yes, we were doing something but it was like, let’s take a step back even further and see what we can do as a society, as a city.
‘Cause like, Huntington was at the forefront. They’re like, “No, we’re just gonna ban ’em.” And everywhere, and if you live in that city we’re banning plastic bags. It was a whole thing. But I think that what’s important is just to take it in consideration. Like Amanda had said, you know, a lot of times people love to just go on social media, you know, like [inaudible 00:15:14] the trolls and it was like people were getting on and saying like, “Ooh, what happened when there weren’t straws invented? What did disabled people do then?” It was just like, quite frankly they drank whatever they needed to and it probably got into their lungs and then they got pneumonia and they died. Like, if you wanna take it to that extreme, like we can take it to that extreme.
Another person in the article had said she remembered rubber straws and how when the plastic straws came in the 1950’s it completely like, changed her life, you know? So it’s just one of the things where we were just kind of bringing it up because it is a hot, trendy thing that a lot of people are doing. In our office, ourselves, we kind of had encountered and started this conversation about like, “Oh, look, this is the alternative.” But as Amanda said, we’re able to use silicone straws and that is an easy alternative for us instead of having the plastic straws, it’s our little contribution to it, to help saving the environment.
I know in California they also did a lot of the … we have a lot of recycling centers and things like that, so if you’re listening to this in another state we’d love to hear what pro-environmental things … ’cause even now, you go to restaurants they have like, compost sections sometimes if they have the space or whatever. But you see those bins, it’s like cans or all plastics and then it’s just like, waste goes here and then it’s separated into three things and I don’t know, we just thought it was a fun kind of article that was on the other side that you may not have looked into.
Amanda Selogie: I just, as we were sitting here thinking about it I was thinking about when and why were the first straws created? So I just did a quick Wikipedia search. I was like, “That’d be interesting to know the history behind it.” So I guess the first known straws were made for drinking beer.
Vickie Brett: Just like, in general?
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, so they say, “To avoid the solid byproducts of fermentation that sinks to the bottom, they would use the straws to be able to get it.” So this was considered in a Sumerian tomb, dated 3000 BC.
Vickie Brett: What was it made out of, did it say?
Amanda Selogie: It seems like it’s made out of stone. Then in the 1800s a rye grass straw came into fashion because it was cheap and soft. But it says, “It had an unfortunate tendency to turn to mush in liquid.” So obviously then they had to come make it out of paper, in 1888 they started doing it because they … it says that one guy, while drinking a Mint Julep on a hot day, the taste of rye was mixing with the drink and giving it a grassy taste, which he found unsatisfactory.
So he wound a piece of paper around a pencil to make a thin tube, slid the pencil out, and then applied glue between the strips. It’s definitely come a long way that we not have the plastic ones and the reusable ones. It’s one of those things where it can … I think the point is anything can become a controversial topic if we allow it to be. But if we think practically and we think about how we can help others, it’s just the classic argument of we need to be thinking about everybody before we put this ban into place is what should’ve happened.
Vickie Brett: Well we always it’s a testament of what our society wants to think about when we think of people with disabilities, or living with disabilities as Amanda and I say. We get it, we use the terminology all the time but it’s also just … you know, deference. What do they like being called? We were talking about the other day, I was talking to my brothers and we were talking about what was politically correct, like little people. ‘Cause there’s all these TLC shows, it’s like, little people, little houses, little women of LA or whatever. So we were like, okay, so it went from becoming derogatory, midget, dwarf, but there are some little … so I keep saying little people, ’cause I’m like, well, that’s in the mainstream, right? So then that should be acceptable.
But remember, we were just talking about this, too. In the 2000s when you didn’t like something people were like, “Oh, that’s so gay,” remember that? We were just like, that was in movies, it was in our favorite TV shows. Remember in Gilmore Girls? It was everywhere and it’s like, you just think it’s acceptable but it’s like, maybe you ask someone. Like, that is living that experience. It’s like, “Oh, how would you like to be referred to?” I know it seems so PC. We get it, you guys. But I don’t know, it’s just food for thought.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, I think I was watching one of those shows, I think my grandma was watching one of them. I think one of the people had said it really depends on the person, that some of them actually like the term little people and some, if they actually are dwarfs then it’s like … but the main thing was like, you should not be afraid to ask someone what they prefer. ‘Cause if you’re not sure, like if you want to describe someone and you ask them you say, “Which do you prefer?” Like, they’re probably gonna feel so much better that you asked them.
My thing is, why are we even using labels? We always say it, “Labels are for clothes.” Why can’t we say, “My friend,” or, “My coworker,” or, “This person I met”? Why do we have to say, just like why do we have to say, “Oh, it was a person living with a disability.” Right? We use it if we have to describe a situation but it’s not necessary when we talk about the person in general, because it’s not who they are. It’s not necessarily how we define them. Just because a person might be a little person, that’s not who they are. They would probably say, “I’m a painter,” or, “I’m a teacher,” or, “I’m a singer,” right? Just like we wouldn’t want to be called …
Vickie Brett: Lawyers?
Amanda Selogie: Lawyers, well. Yeah, we wouldn’t say that we like to help children. That’s not necessarily, you know, who we are is not someone who sues people. Right? So I mean, that’s all that it comes down to is just being more conscious about the words that we use and I don’t really care if it sounds PC. At the end of the day, why can’t we just be kinder to one another and use … like, think about things before we speak. That’s all I’m saying.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, I mean, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it at all. This is social media now. It’s like, everybody has to just say their opinion and opinion is just like … behind, everybody has one, right? That’s the cleanest version I could think of in my head but we get it. Everybody has an opinion. You don’t have to always share your opinion. Clearly, Amanda and I always share our opinion, but that’s what we do, right?
But no, we like hearing your guys’ opinions about a lot of different things, we’ve started the Facebook group and if you want to join just please go onto … you can do it through our actual Facebook page. The group is more so along the lines of discussing different topics that we have on the podcast, different things that come up in the week that we kinda are polling you guys about in the sense of like, “Oh, we had a lot of comments on this, we should be doing a fuller podcast episode on it.” So it’s been really helpful, we’ve gotten a lot of traction. We just wanted to let you guys know, you know, we do wanna hear your opinions and your life experiences ’cause it helps us kinda fill out our podcast episodes.
Amanda Selogie: Also the group is a forum for you guys as well, because as much as we can sit here, you know, our pedestal and give you our advice and give you our opinions, we don’t just wanna hear from you. We think that you guys should be hearing from each other. I think that it’s, there’s so much to be learned. We learn from you guys all the time, just like you learn from us. I think you all can learn from each other. So I think it’s a great opportunity to kind of find like minded … and maybe you won’t agree on everything. Maybe you have different perceptions about things, and I think it’s good to have … you know, even though we say we don’t always have to say something negative and voice your opinion, I think it is important to be able to have discussions about things, especially when we can help each other and we can help move forward.
Vickie Brett: I think if you’re coming from a genuine place, no matter what question you ask, I remember teachers saying there are no stupid questions. I think that if you’re … and a lot of people in the group are very genuine. They’re coming from a place where they’re not saying, “I know I’m right,” it’s more so like, “Oh, well I’ve read this,” and Amanda and I are the first to know, hey, we get it. There’s different case law out there that can completely contradict itself. Like, we understand the differing of opinions. We have a supreme court that has differing opinions. It’s one of those things where we understand that in the legal context.
I think it gets a bit blurry when people with their own personal experiences, that’s all they know. When they are exposed to people with different experiences, as long as you’re coming from that genuine place, which I think a lot of the people on that group are coming from, it’s just a place where we can kind of all learn and grow together. That was the whole point of the podcast is changing that conversation and having that inclusion and that opportunity to better our community, right? We always say that ’cause we wholeheartedly believe in it and you guys are helping us do that. That’s why we are gonna keep doing what we’re doing.
A little bit of a shorter pod today, but we thought that this was fun, kind of little article that we wanted to discuss. We just jumped right into it, we were gonna talk about the couple weekends ago we went to one of our friend’s … well, technically the mom’s our friend but I guess the little girl … I’m not gonna say names ’cause I don’t wanna like … put it out there. But she was turning one. ‘Cause I was like, “I went to my friend’s one year old birthday,” it’s just like, you know how [inaudible 00:24:55].
Amanda Selogie: She is our friend.
Vickie Brett: I guess, but she’s like, I’m gonna let her decide. She hasn’t decided yet, so I’m not gonna put that pressure on her. It was very cute, Amanda helped set it up. The theme was wild one, and we had a good time. That was when it was like, so hot. Do you remember? It was like 110 degrees outside, so.
Amanda Selogie: Yes.
Vickie Brett: That’s the California corner where we brag about our really hot weather, so sorry about anybody else [inaudible 00:25:21] that lives in Arizona and is just, it’s been like that since what, like April?
Amanda Selogie: March.
Vickie Brett: Since March, yeah. But the weather’s gotten a lot nicer, but do you have anything coming up this weekend? For us it’s different, we’re actually recording earlier in the week than we normally do, so it’s like we have the whole week ahead of us. I don’t even know what this weekend is, I don’t know what I’m doing.
Amanda Selogie: I don’t know, it’s Monday. We just had our weekend.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, I know.
Amanda Selogie: What did we do this weekend? I don’t think I did that much, I think I had a low key weekend which is always nice. I don’t know, it’s supposed to be nice, so I don’t know, maybe-
Vickie Brett: Maybe have a beach day.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, a beach day is always nice. Figure it out, but yeah, it’s weird to record on a Monday.
Vickie Brett: I know.
Amanda Selogie: But you know, if you enjoy what you’re listening to, if you haven’t subscribed already, how dare you … I’m just kidding. Just kidding, we love you, you don’t need to subscribe. But if you wanna make sure that the episode comes on a Tuesday to your phone right away, please hit that subscribe button, and tell a friend. More importantly I think what we really enjoy is if you join our Facebook group. So go to the inclusive education project on Facebook and you’ll see our post. I think it’s like, tagged at the top or something to join the group. You just ask to join the group, and it is a private group.
So what we like about that is that once you join you don’t have to worry about it being a public group where there are gonna be trolls that are going to give their nasty opinions or attack each other. We do have an admin that’s very careful to look out for that. We have some ground rules. We want to make it a safe space for you, so please feel free to share that with your friends as well. Any other parents out there or educators, professionals, even non-parents, people thinking about having kids or people who just wanna be more aware of some really important issues that are going on. We will talk to you next week. Thank you for listening.
Vickie Brett: Bye.
Amanda Selogie: Bye.
Vickie Brett: Bye.