Why Dining in Vancouver Sucks for Me as a Disabled Person

I recently visited Vancouver on vacation, and while the scenery there was gorgeous, the people there were incredibly friendly, and the city was vibrant and exciting, their straw ban that will be going into effect in 2019 sucks.

While ordering drinks at our hotel, the waitress brought mine out without a straw. When asked if there was a straw I could use, our waitress responded with, “Yes, actually! Just trying to save the planet.” My mom felt like retorting, “Just trying to help my daughter,” because it was absolutely ridiculous that our waitress was seemingly trying to guilt trip me into needing a straw.

The most frustrating experience, however, took place at a restaurant. My parents and I were eating at Tap and Barrel, and I’d just ordered a Coke. When my drink came, I was not given a straw. The Coke was in a wide, heavy glass like most restaurants have, and my limited hand function from my transverse myelitis inhibits me from picking many heavy glasses up, including this one. Noticing I would definitely not be able to pick up this glass, I planned to ask for a straw.

However, my mom was ahead of me, and before I could say anything, she asked, “Do you have any straws?”
Our waiter, who was incredibly sweet and was doing an excellent job, smiled as he shook his head. “No, we don’t. By 2019, there will be no straws in the city of Vancouver,” he told us happily, as if he was proud of what he’d just said.

I was already incredibly annoyed, and I knew my parents were as well. First Seattle, then Santa Barbara, now Vancouver. I’ll be doomed if Atlanta, where I live, comes next. My mom and I have already discussed heading to the grocery store and purchasing every single bag of plastic straws they have.

“Well, she has a disability and needs a straw. Do you have any straws for people with disabilities?”

Our waiter nodded frantically, and his whole demeanor changed immediately. “Of course! We do keep straws for special instances like this. I’ll just have to ask my manager to get one, and then I’ll bring it to you!”

Of course I was annoyed. It wasn’t our waiter’s fault, or the restaurant’s necessarily, but I was still frustrated because the entire situation is just becoming ridiculous. Our waiter had to get in touch with the manager just to bring me a simple straw, and the entire process took him about 10 or 15 minutes. And, all the while, I was unable to take a sip of my Coke.

When our waiter finally came back with my straw, he presented me with a short plastic straw. I was relieved that it was plastic, but it was too short for my glass. So I asked him to bring a shorter glass to pour my Coke into so I could use the straw, which took another few minutes. All in all, I didn’t get a sip of my drink until about 20 minutes after I first received it — all because of the ridiculous straw ban. If restaurants are not going to give customers straws unless requested, they at least need to be able to bring them in a timely manner.

Later on during our meal, my parents and I struck up conversation with our waiter, and he revealed that he’s studying to become a physical therapist. I wanted to say this (but I refrained): I hope he realizes the importance of plastic straws to the disabled community once he finishes physical therapy school.

Our waiter was incredibly kind about the entire situation, but I was still frustrated. Disabled people already go through enough struggles throughout our daily lives, and we don’t need the added frustration of trying to find an item that helps us be independent. I would like to simply go out to eat and have my server bring me a plastic straw I am able to use — without having to wait forever and share personal details about myself just to receive a necessity for me to be independent.

Image Credits: Sarah Todd Hammer

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