Grace Brulotte in downtown Fernie. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

B.C. woman with physical disability shocked after being refused straw

A growing number of Elk Valley businesses limit their use of plastic straws amid global movement

A prominent Fernie woman with a severe physical disability has spoken of her shock at being refused a drinking straw at a local restaurant.

It comes as a growing number of Elk Valley businesses limit their use of plastic straws amid a global movement to eliminate them from the environment.

“When I asked for a straw, I was simply told ‘we don’t give out straws anymore’,” said Grace Brulotte.

“There was no offer of an alternative solution, such as a paper straw, they just wouldn’t give me one period.

“I was quite shocked by this because I have never been denied a straw before in any of my dining experiences.

“After the no-straw movement started gaining traction, I was often given a paper straw instead of a plastic one, which is an appropriate alternative in my opinion.”

Brulotte is confined to a wheelchair after being born with a rare neuromuscular disorder called arthrogryposis, as well as scoliosis, a spinal condition.

Because of her disability and physical limitations, the 22-year-old is unable to pick up and hold a cup, so requires a straw to drink unassisted.

“I choose to use a straw because it gives me a little more independence, instead of needing someone to hold my cup and help me drink,” she said.

“This little step forward in my independence is huge for me. Being able to do things for myself without needing help just attributes to me feeling ‘like everyone else’.”

Grace Brulotte requires a straw to drink unassisted. Photo supplied

Brulotte is a well-known “ability activist” and has spearheaded many initiatives for people with disabilities, including the Fernie Inspire the Race to Empower (FIRE) adaptive ski program.

She is not the first to be disadvantaged by the anti-straw movement, with a similar incident involving another woman with arthrogryposis reported in Toronto earlier this year.

Brulotte did not wish to publicly name the restaurant but hoped to raise awareness among the business community.

“If a restaurant wants to participate in this movement, that’s their prerogative,” she said.

“However, making sure certain groups of people aren’t affected, such as the adaptive community, should just be common courtesy.”

Brulotte said participating restaurants could ensure they were still being inclusive by offering alternatives, such as paper straws.

“Something that has become more popular is stainless steel or glass straws, which, if properly sterilized, could be reused by restaurants for customers who need them. Or simply having straws available only for people who specifically ask for them,” she said.

“Regardless of how they do it, restaurants should always have an alternative solution if they choose to participate in any movement.

“Removing a service completely, even if it’s meant benevolently, can have a negative impact that they may not even be aware of. If restaurants strive to be inclusive it creates a better experience for everyone.”

Fernie Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Patty Vadnais said it was unclear how many restaurants and cafes had banned plastic straws as the movement was growing organically.

She encouraged all businesses to be inclusive and environmentally-minded.

“It is exciting to see the uptake of businesses reducing their plastic use,” she said.

“I anticipate businesses will quickly find environmentally responsible options, like A&W’s compostable straws, to meet customer’s needs.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Volunteers needed for 2020 Sam Steele Days

Co-chairs will be mentored to fill roles of those stepping down in 2021

Cranbrook named one of the most secret municipal governments in Canada

City of Cranbrook gets “Honorable Mention” in the annual Code of Silence Awards

Otters relocated after devastating fish populations at Kootenay hatchery

The otters were relocated out of the Kootenay watershed last year in an effort to save the fish.

Avalanche season comes to an end at PACWEST Provincials

With Files from Mo Hussain The College of the Rockies Avalanche season… Continue reading

Kootenay-Columbia MP urges end to ‘illegal roadblocks’ in solidarity with pipeline dispute

Rob Morrison says protestors across Canada need to remove roadblocks on roads, rail lines

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Police ID man found dead in west Kootenays after probe leads to no arrests

Forty-seven-year-old Aaron Graham, of Vallican, has been identified as the man killed

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Most Read