While Price Tags has detailed the impending tea-mageddon that may occur when plastic straws are deemed ecologically unsound, and thus no longer available as an absolute necessity in bubble tea consumption, there are other groups which benefit from bendable, plastic straws — the elderly, and the disabled.

The importance of plastic straws for disabled users was commented on  Twitter by local disabled rights advocate Ms. Sinenomine. 

The BBC News also reported that most paper and plant-based alternatives are not flexible or suitable for drinks over 40C, therefore increases the risks of choking. Metal straws can be dangerous for people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, whereas reusable plastic straws present hygiene concerns to people with specific health conditions.”

Just as we should be designing for universal accessibility in building, street and open space design, processes for banning single use plastics should also include user groups that are going to be disproportionately impacted by the ban. These groups need to be involved in finding a suitable alternative for continued use.

As one advocate speaking to the BBC observed, “businesses are understandably responding to environmental concerns, but in reacting so quickly the needs of their disabled customers risk becoming afterthoughts.”


Image: Little Things.com