Washington, D.C., Oct. 12 – When presidential candidates include senior staff and advisors with disabilities, with the same effort as other marginalized populations, they are exposed to a variety of thoughts and ideas. Mayor Pete Buttigieg proved that during a recent interview with The New Republic when he noted the importance of talking about disability in the context of the plastic straw ban, noting that this is a new “purity test” that troubles him in the Democratic race.
“Anybody who thinks we ought to ban plastic straws should first have a conversation about disability,” he said. “Plastic straws are actually important for a lot of people. But that’s way to the side. I just think we need to have a level of focus on what’s most important in dealing with the planet.”
On an appearance on CNN’s New Day last month, Mayor Buttigieg said trying to tackle climate change can “feel paralyzing” and people look for items they can control. “From using a straw to eating a burger, am I part of the problem? In a certain way, yes,” he said. “But the most exciting thing is that we can all be part of the solution.”
By having advisors with disabilities on staff, Mayor Buttigieg has been able to learn more about a topic from a different angle. This allows a candidate to form an educated opinion on a topic.
Plastic Straw Bans Become Controversial Topic on Campaign Trail
During the CNN Climate Town Hall that occurred the day prior to Mayor Buttigieg’s New Day interview, several presidential hopefuls brought up plastic straws. Sen. Kamala Harris said she supports the plastic straw ban. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, said the controversy around the plastic straw ban is a distraction from the oil and fossil fuel industries. Likewise, Andrew Yang said banning plastic straws’ impact is too low to spend too much time on.
Many cities have enacted a plastic straw ban, citing environmental reasons. A 2017 study found that 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute beaches all over the world, National Geographic reported. However, this ban affects individuals with disabilities who may need a straw in order to drink – or eat. Paper straws disintegrate fairly quickly, which can be more than an inconvenience for individuals with disabilities – leading to choking. In addition, people with limited jaw control may bite through paper straws. Other alternatives, such as reusable straws made from metal or silicone may be difficult for individuals with disabilities without enough hand dexterity to keep clean. Further, they often are not flexible, something necessary for people with mobility disabilities. Metal straws also conduct heat and cold, posing additional safety risks.
All policy plans – including those focused on education, employment, the environment and others – affect people with disabilities. Without including policy advisors with disabilities, no plan can fully include the more than 25 percent of American adults with disabilities.