The author demonstrates how a plastic straw enables her to drink independently.

I would like to commend The Friends of the Animals for their informative article regarding single-use plastic and Styrofoam containers. The article does a good job of raising awareness about how sea life can be saved by not using plastic bags. One thing that was missing from Ms. Feral’s op-ed was acknowledgement of the impact that a ban on plastic straws would have on people with disabilities.

Plastic straws are an essential independent living tool for many people with disabilities, including myself.  I am unable to drink from a glass or cup due to my physical disability.  I cannot hold a glass or cup and then bring it to my mouth without spilling the liquid that is in the cup. Therefore, plastic straws are an essential adaption for my everyday living. They enable me to drink independently.

Due to the environmental issues surrounding plastic straws, many people have suggested I use metal straws. Metal straws are dangerous for me because of involuntary movements caused by my disability. The Cromwell Dental Association, where I go for my dental care, strongly advised me NOT to use metal straws as they are fearful that metal straws might break my teeth.

Many restaurants have started using paper straws and they no longer have plastic straws upon request. The paper straws do not work for me because I involuntarily bite down on the them. When this happens, I cannot drink through the straw. I asked a few friends with disabilities to experiment with paper straws and we laughed about our similar experiences of not being able to drink from paper straws.

A recent CNN on-line story featured a story called Why banning plastic straws upsets people with disabilities. The story highlighted that plastic straws only make up a small percentage of debris found in the oceans and other bodies of water.  The story also showed examples of how plastic straws are a crucial accessible adaptation for people with disabilities.

I hope this letter has demonstrated why plastic straws are an absolute necessity for many people with disabilities. I urge the legislature to refrain from preceding with the bill that has been sent to the floor by the Environment Committee. While I appreciate the joint favorable substitute language that recognizes that plastic straws should remain available for people with disabilities who need them, I am concerned as to what proof I might need in order to obtain a straw when I go to a restaurant.  Furthermore, allowing municipalities to implement more restrictive language other than the proposed bill will only make it more difficult for people with disabilities.

Mary-Ann Langton is a disability advocate living in West Hartford.

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