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Consult the disabled community before regulating straws or drive-thrus says accessibility advocate

'People with severe disabilities require bendable straws that don't turn to mush in your mouth,' said Paul Vienneau
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(stock photo)

Jurisdictions around the world have discussed banning certain items in order to reduce our environmental footprint.

Here in Halifax, the idea of eliminating straws and other single use plastics has been tossed around, and last fall councillor Richard Zurawski asked for a report on how the municipality could go about regulating drive-thrus.

"We've got a lot of low-hanging fruit that we can start to deal with," Zurawski told NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show earlier this week.

One accessibility advocate said it's easy to target those low-hanging fruit items without considering how necessary they are to those in the disability community.

"Abled people, governments, and those online are very comfortable telling disabled people what they will live without, in a way they wouldn't tell other groups what they will live without," said Paul Vienneau.

"Meanwhile it's affecting people that need these things to live their day-to-day lives."

He told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show he was moved to tears by an online video featuring a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose, but banning straws outright is a knee-jerk reaction.

"People with severe disabilities require bendable straws that don't turn to mush in your mouth," Vienneau explained.

He said it's not fair to force people to purchase their own reusable straws, which generally aren't bendable and could be difficult to clean for those with limited mobility. 

"Somebody's going to make this product and it's going to be $15. The disabled person is going to be the one shouldering the cost of it, and everything to do with a disability is already costly," he said. "My new wheelchair that is basically a bicycle I fit in, it was about $8,500."

"This is a way to further tax disability by making us pay for things."

He believes a more sensible solution would be to give out straws only to people who ask for them.

Vienneau added drive-thrus are also necessary for people who struggle to get in and out of their cars, including the elderly and those with young children.

"This will create a hardship for many groups of people," he said.

He believes there are more effective ways the municipality could reduce its environmental footprint, like switching their vehicles over to hybrids.

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana & lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the community editor for
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