Viral Thread Nails How The Plastic Straw Ban Hurts People with Disabilities

by Leah Groth
Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images/Twitter/@EhlersDanlosgrl

It’s really not about plastic straws, but ableism in general

In recent years, many companies — including Starbucks — have pledged to eliminate plastic straws in an attempt to cut down the amount of plastic in the ocean. While environmentalists hail this movement as a victory, not everyone is benefiting from this step toward sustainability.

In a Twitter feed that has since gone viral, @EhlersDanlosgrl shared a shocking experience she had while dining at a local restaurant. The 21-year-old asked her waitress for a straw. Despite the fact that she had one in her apron, she responded “we can’t just give them out,” and proceeded to walk away.

While some people are easily able to drink out of a glass, making the usage of plastic straws just a convenience thing, @EhlersDanlosgrl isn’t one of them. She has a degenerative joint disease in her spine that makes picking up a glass not only difficult but painful.

So, her father flagged down the waitress and she asked her again, explaining that she had a disability. At this point, you would assume anyone in the service industry would just hand over a straw and apologize, right? But no. “She met that with ‘you seemed fine when you walked in,’” she tweeted. Eventually, the girl was forced to ask for a manager, who finally handed her a straw while whispering to the waitress, “people like that aren’t worth it just give them the damn straw.” Um, seriously?

“I was SO frustrated… I just started crying. My dad got up and followed the manager back to the front where he then LET HER HAVE IT,” she continued in the tweet. “And while he was shouting, people were turning to look at me.. he was literally just shouting “her spine is deteriorating she uses crutches most days you MORON” and I was SO EMBARRASSED. I got up and walked out of the restaurant and my mom followed me.”

But her point in sharing the story wasn’t to get people hating on the restaurant. In fact, she opted to keep its identity anonymous. And it wasn’t even really to stop the plastic straw ban. Thought she did share a helpful infographic that basically explains that replacing plastic straws with metal or paper straws isn’t really a great option either.

She did so because she wanted to raise awareness to a bigger message — that she should never have been forced to disclose her disability to a waitress — over a damn straw! “STRAW BAN IS BULLSHIT. It’s just an excuse for ableism,” she wrote, pointing out that a waitress should not get to “decide’”if she is “validly disabled” or not.

In case you still aren’t up to speed on the definition of ableism, the Merriam-Webster dictionary explains that it is “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities.” This can come in many forms, and several commenters shared their own personal stories of being forced to “out” or defend their own disabilities. Some involved parking spots and others, toilets.

So how can we make the world a better place, for both the people living on it and the environment? First of all, we need to allow people accessibility to what they need. Maybe instead of “banning” plastic straws, we should give people options. That way, if someone does have a disability, they don’t need to justify themselves. They can simply ask for a damn plastic straw.

Additionally, people need to use some common sense when interacting with others and stop being such assholes. Seriously, is it ever okay to treat someone the way that waitress and restaurant manager did to that girl? I mean, people, this is a problem! Don’t ever question someone about their disability. Like, EVER!

Let’s use this girl’s experience as a lesson and all be better humans because of it!