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The straw (ban) that broke Daniel's back

Owensboro man pushing major chains to re-think going strawless

Starbucks and other major chains have said they're slowing the use of plastic straws and it could help Mother Nature by limiting pollution.

Not only are restaurants and big brands starting to cut plastic straws, some big cities like Miami Beach and Seattle are following.

But on a farm near Philpot, Ky. there’s a man who has spent almost 25 years of his life in a wheelchair, and he feels like his voice doesn't matter.

Going strawless might hurt people like Daniel Gilbert. He considers himself a disability advocate, and he's asking companies to re-think their ban on straws.

“It took me awhile to figure out,” he says pausing. “Get my voice.”

The man bound to a wheelchair is finally standing up.

Gilbert has Duchenne muscular dystrophy; a generic disorder that causes his muscles to deteriorate, “so it makes it harder to do things the older I get,” he says.

As unique has Daniel is flicking a joystick with his right hand, all he really wants to do is fit in.

Gilbert can’t pick up a cup, so the only way he can drink liquid is through a straw. And for him, that’s sometimes easier said than done. He always carries extra straws with him, but that’s not an option for everyone.

“Sometimes I have to use my mouth just to get the straw in the cup,” he says leaning over the kitchen table toward a glass of water.

When Starbucks decided to ban plastic straws nationwide, Daniel thought he was being banned, too. Metal straws are hard to clean, and paper straws fall apart, he says. Plastic works best.

“Small things disabled people have to take into account just to be normal part of society,” adds Gilbert.

Normal is hard and protecting nature may be even harder. Gilbert understands the importance of saving the environment, but he hopes companies consider making plastic straws available to customers on request.

“Sometimes they don't think about disabled people and sometimes that's overshadowed.”

Something as simple as a straw won't break Daniel Gilbert.


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(This story was originally published July 12, 2018)

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