Danne Hall Contributing Writer
Almost everyone who uses Hurley Hall, the Student Center Café, or the Library Café has likely seen the new roll out that the University is putting into effect. They are marketing that Eastern is going straw-less: “We are saying SO LONG to straws. SKIP the straw, save the planet,” and are using coffee-cup-type lids for their iced drinks, which are the new “in.” While I respect where Eastern and the state of Connecticut are coming from, there is a huge issue that stands out to me that has nothing to do with the environment. It’s the ableist culture that comes with deciding to entirely rid the campus of straws. To most students at Eastern, the straw ban is likely a blip on their radar, and if it means much of anything, it is to those who are in support of it as it will minimize environmental waste. Yet that leaves a portion of the students and staff in Eastern’s community with the problem of being able to consume their drinks.
My sibling attends Eastern, and while they love the campus and the diverse community it has, they are constantly being reminded that they, a student with a physical disability that directly affects their life, are neglected and unseen. The straw ban is, to put it lightly, the very last straw for them and individuals like myself who are out here advocating for students with disabilities. They have had to endure the struggles of elevators shut down for maintenance when they have classes (which they then have to take an absence from due to the inability to get to said class), the New England weather affecting their capability of getting to food and classes, and the ableist ideology that is second nature (subconsciously or not) to those who does not have to deal with this situation on a daily basis. How many times has someone hit the handicap button when they could easily open the door? And even ignoring that, how many times have handicap buttons, that are the only way to get into the building, been broken? The science building has only one proper entrance that is handicap accessible and the button has not worked since I started at Eastern in 2015.
The straw ban on campus is just another way that Eastern is allowing an ableist ideology to appear on campus, and it’s terrible to witness. When asked what those individuals who need straws would have to do in order to drink, Eastern responded that they had paper straws or students could ask for a plastic one at the register. To most, this may not seem like a problem, how hard is it to just ask for a straw or use the ones provided? Keep in mind that paper straws are just as wasteful as plastic, and that those almost immediately become soggy and unusable once placed in a drink. And while asking for a straw may not seem like such a big problem, it is beyond humiliating to have to ask for this necessity. Staff has shown previously that they can be aggravated by having to get said item, and some students have a hard time telling the staff what they need. For my sibling, the ability to talk is limited due to their disability and can make it extremely hard for them to ask for a straw, which is infuriating for them.
Despite all that Eastern boasts, this straw ban is yet another step away from the inclusivity the campus wishes to show. Everyone is capable of becoming injured and needing extra assistance, and while a straw may seem like nothing to some, it’s the only thing that allows another to drink water. Students and staff of Eastern’s community deserve to be represented in all aspects, and if the University feels that implementing this ban is beneficial, then I know I will have plenty to say about it. If Eastern is as inclusive as it claims, then the straw ban—and other issues that affect the lives of Eastern community members with disabilities—is a far cry from what they are presenting to those on the campus.