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Woman’s horrific restaurant experience highlights the ableism of plastic straw bans
When she asked for a straw, the waiter said she ‘seemed fine.’
A young woman’s story is showing people on Twitter how the ableism of plastic straw bans trickles down to deeply personal—and humiliating—experiences for some people in the disabled community.
User @EhlersDanlosgrl, who goes by Moe on her Twitter, shared a thread on Thursday about her recent experience at a local restaurant.
“I was declined a straw at a restaurant this morning,” Moe explained in her Twitter thread, which has received thousands of retweets. “The waitress had one in her apron. As she poured the water I said ‘excuse me miss can I have a straw?’ She said ‘we can’t just give them out’ and walked away.”
I explained that I am disabled, that I have degenerative joint disease in my spine and picking up a full glass to drink causes muscle spasms under my shoulder blades. She met that with “you seemed fine when you walked in”.— moe (@EhlersDanlosgrl) June 13, 2019
It’s not clear which restaurant the incident took place at, and Moe declined an interview with the Daily Dot.
She says she didn’t receive a straw even after explaining that she has a degenerative joint disease, and when she asked for the manager, the waitress looked “pissed as hell.” The manager eventually gave Moe a straw but then whispered to the waitress, “people like that aren’t worth it just give them the damn straw.”
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.— moe (@EhlersDanlosgrl) June 13, 2019
“I’m still really upset. STRAW BAN IS BULLSHIT. It’s just an excuse for ableism. A waitress should NOT get to ‘decide’ if I’m validly disabled or not,” she wrote.
Her tweets soon went viral, with many rallying for her:
Yes. Don’t put out straws automatically (or have them out for ppl to grab 100) but if someone asks just give them one without questioning them. It would allow disabled people access to straws without proving they are disabled and embarrassing them while also lowering straw use— Ash // Team Anti-hero (@thebookbakery17) June 13, 2019
Plastic straw policing vulnerable members of our disabled community instead of holding accountable the billionaires, corporations, and governmental agencies *actually* responsible for destroying our environment doesn’t make you a champion of our planet, it makes you an oppressor.— over the brainbow 🌈 (@penijean) June 13, 2019
The ban on plastic straws, including a citywide ban in Seattle and Starbucks’ announcement that it would transition out of using plastic straws completely by 2020, has raised alarms for many in the disabled community. Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of banning a product that’s often a necessity when other products make up a higher percentage of plastic waste in the ocean. NPR reports that plastic straws contribute less weight to the ocean’s pollution waste than bottle caps, for example.
It also doesn’t help that people on Twitter, often unaware, contribute to the shaming of those who need plastic straws.
I have epilepsy, a metal straw is extremely dangerous for me. I also have nerve damage in my face that makes it almost impossible for me to drink from a glass without spilling it all over myself and I’m allergic to the dye used in most paper straws. Leave disabled people alone— Uggo but still Luvvo (@1tallboi) June 14, 2019
Plastic straws certainly contribute to the ocean’s waste, and while abled people have the privilege to forego using them, it’s equally important that the experiences of people living with disabilities are taken into account.
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Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque