As of today - 1 November, single-use plastic straws will be banned across New South Wales.
The banning of single-use plastic straws and the subsequent exemption that ensures people with a disability can still access them, raises the question of how communities and governments consider the needs of vulnerable groups.
Aruma Human Rights Advisor, James Mccoy, feels that taking steps to protect the environment and providing options for people with a disability, do not have to be exclusive of one another.
“It feels like everyone forgets and doesn’t really care about people with a disability. I don’t think it comes from a place of malice; we are just an underrepresented group in society,” James said.
As of November 1, single-use plastic, including straws, will be banned across New South Wales, however, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), an exemption ensures people with a disability can “continue to access plastic single-use straws where they are available.”
The uncertainty of whether retailers and hospitality venues will have plastic straws on hand is a compounding accessibility issue for people with a disability and their carers.
“Many venues have stairs; some are not sensory friendly, and now there may be no plastic straws. There is also concern of people being judgemental about those who need – and ask – to use plastic straws,” James continued.
People with a disability and advocates ask that hospitality venues keep plastic straws stocked for those who need them.
“It’s going to be important that venues keep plastic straws on hand – reusable straws currently on the market do not offer the strength, flexibility, and safety that people with a disability need,” James said.
This concern was echoed by Aruma Shared living Manager Michelle Glasson, who supports customers who require plastic straws.
“For some of our customers, their world will be turned upside down by this change in routine,” she said.
Michelle continued, “it will also be a change for our staff, who will need to get into the habit of packing straws for customers because of the risk that they will not be available. Even when we look back to the phasing out of plastic bags, there were many times that I, an able-bodied and sound of mind individual, would forget them, so it is important to look out for each other.”
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