EI Talk: A Blog for Early
Childhood Professionals


Italian Early Childhood Education Approaches: Montessori and Reggio Emilia

Early Childhood Interventions January 17, 2019

Europe has been a rich source of many influential educational ideas. In elementary and early childhood education, two of the best-known approaches with European origins are Montessori, and Reggio Emilia. Both are seen as strong educational alternatives to traditional education and as sources of inspiration for progressive educational reform.

These two approaches to early childhood education were born in Italy: the first one conceived by Maria Montessori (1870-1952), a brilliant figure who was Italy's first woman physician, and the second one by Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) a primary school visionary teacher who in 1950 qualified as an educational psychologist and founded Reggio Emilia’s municipal Psycho-Pedagogical Medical Centre.

Dr. Montessori first developed her educational approach while working with a preschool population, in particular, children with disabilities. She gradually extended her approach to children and youth of all ages and abilities. Today, some Montessori schools provide all levels of learning, from infant & toddler through the secondary (high school) level. The Reggio approach however, is a birth to age 6 early childhood program.

The programs have several key areas of similarity and contrast. Both are child-centered approaches in which children are viewed as active participants in their own development, strongly influenced by natural, dynamic, self-correcting forces within themselves, opening the way toward growth and learning. The teachers of both approaches are considered nurturers, partners, and guides to the children. The teachers depend on carefully prepared, aesthetically pleasing environments as a pedagogical tool. Partnering with parents is also highly valued in both approaches.

Core Principles

Montessori

Reggio

  • Mixed age classrooms: 2½ or 3 to 6 years old are most common
  • Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
  • Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours.
  • Constructivist or self-discovery model rather than direct instruction
  • Specialized educational materials often made out of natural, aesthetic materials such as wood, rather than plastic
  • Environment organized to promote choice, easy access, and are appropriate in size
  • Freedom to move within the classroom
  • A trained teacher who follows the child’s lead and promote a child’s innate talents and abilities
  • Child-centered in which children have control over their learning
  • Individual differences are recognized and celebrated allowing endless ways and opportunities for children to express themselves Relationship based
  • Constructivist model: learning is active requiring child participation using all senses
  • Collaborative, project-based learning allowing exploration

However, there are also areas of difference, some at the level of principle and others at the level of strategy. Reggio Emilia is not a formal model like Montessori, with defined methods, teacher certification standards, and accreditation processes. Instead, educators in Reggio Emilia speak of their evolving "experience" and see themselves as a “provocation” and reference point, a way of engaging in dialogue starting from a strong and rich vision of the child.

Montessori Method

Italian 1000 Lire banknote (approx. 0.52 €) representing Maria Montessori.

Dr. Montessori started her Casa dei Bambini (Children's House) in 1907, in the slums of Rome for children ages 4 through 7. Her movement later on spread to other countries, especially after the Fascist regime denounced Montessori methods of education and she left Italy. In the United States, there was strong but brief interest from 1910 to 1920. Although the method flourished in Europe and India, it fell out of favor in the United States. The Montessori education movement experienced a resurgence in the US during the 1950s increasing its popularity. Launched in 2013 the USA Montessori Census is a collaboration among the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS), the Center for Research on Developmental Education, and some other Montessori organizations. Currently, the Census maintains information on 514 public programs and 2,075 private schools in the U.S.

The American Montessori Society’s essential components are derived from the core principles described in the table:

  1. Properly trained Montessori teachers,
  2. Multi-age classrooms,
  3. Use of Montessori materials,
  4. Child-directed work, and
  5. Uninterrupted work periods.

Montessori emphasizes independent learning, letting children grow into lifelong learners and responsible citizens of the world. In Montessori education, children usually are grouped into multiage classrooms spanning three years, promoting adult-child continuity and close peer relationships. Montessori classrooms provide carefully prepared, orderly, pleasing environments and materials where children are free to respond to their natural tendency to work individually or in small groups. The children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities. The school community as a whole, including the parents, work together to open the children to the integration of body, mind, emotions, and spirit that is the basis of holistic peace education. The Montessori teacher plays the role of unobtrusive director in the classroom as children individually or in small groups engage in self-directed activity. The teacher's goal is to help and encourage the children, allowing them to develop confidence and inner discipline so that there is less and less need to intervene as the child develops.

Montessori developed a set of manipulative objects designed to support children’s learning of sensory concepts such as dimension, color, shape and texture, and academic concepts of mathematics, literacy, science, geography and history. They are given the freedom to choose what they work on, where they work, with whom they work, and for how long they work on any particular activity, all within the limits of the class rules. No competition is set up between children, and there is no system of extrinsic rewards or punishments. These two aspects—the learning materials themselves, and the nature of the learning—make Montessori classrooms look strikingly different to conventional classrooms (Marshall, 2017).

Reggio Approach

Loris Malaguzzi, 1980s © Scuole e Nidi d’infanzia – Istituzione del Comune di Reggio Emilia

In post-World War II Italy, teacher and educational psychologist Loris Malaguzzi teamed with a group of local parents and children to build an innovative network of municipal infant-toddler centers (ages 0 to 3) and preschools (ages 3 to 6) in and around the city of Reggio Emilia, in Northern Italy. The system evolved from a parent cooperative movement into a city-run system that exercises a leadership role in Italy, throughout Europe, and now increasingly in Asia, Australia, North America, and other parts of the world.

Legend has it that the first school was financed by selling an abandoned German tank, as well as a bunch of horses and two military trucks

The approach is based on a vision of a child being an individual with rights and potential. At the center of the Reggio Emilia approach is Malaguzzi’s belief that “the child has a hundred languages” meaning young children have a hundred different ways of thinking, learning and expressing themselves. Each one of these “languages” should be celebrated, nurtured and developed. Programs in Reggio are family centered and serve children at infant-toddler and preschool levels, with first priority given to children with disabilities or social service needs. His vision of an "education based on relationships" focuses on each child in relation to others supporting children's reciprocal relationships with other children, family, teachers, society, and the environment. Teachers follow the children's interests and do not provide direct instruction in reading and writing. Literacy is promoted through communication. Long-term, open-ended projects are created promoting collaboration Teachers organize the classroom environment with materials that “provoke” and “invite” children to explore and problem solve, often in small groups. Teachers collect data and record observations of child preferences to create environments that promote individualized learning activities.

According to the supporters of both Montessori and Reggio Approach the benefits to children are many and varied. The most valuable advantage of these early learning approaches is that they ignite a love of learning. The supporters claim that benefits include resilience, responsibility, self-confidence, teamwork, problem-solving skills as well as creative and scientific thinking. As they are both based on constructivist teaching, they place more emphasis on sensory input. Children are actively involved in the learning process, using all of their senses, not just their eyes and ears. Active learning approaches emphasize the role of the teacher as a guide. All of these ideas combined, form a modern version of educational constructivism, which states that learning best happens when children get to construct and form their own knowledge. Instead of being told how to think or what to memorize, children are encouraged to create their own understanding of the world.

Other contemporaries of Montessori and Malaguzzi shared similar ideas about constructivism. The American educator, John Dewey, first began to posit ideas that would form a basis for constructivism. He believed that school should promote problem solving through active participation rather than rote memorization and note-taking notes. Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist also believed that learning doesn’t merely happen from someone talking at a child, but rather, the learning process is an active and dynamic one. Lev Vygotsky, from Russia, thought that children’s experiences happen in a socially constructed way, and then again, on an individual level. Bruner, a pioneer of cognitive psychology in the United States, thought that different processes were used by learners in problem solving, that these vary from person to person and that social interaction lay at the root of good learning. He builds on the Socratic tradition of learning through dialogue, encouraging the learner to come to enlighten themselves through reflection.

Benefits of the Approaches

The 2017 review of the benefits of the Montessori education system indicates that there is evidence in support of certain elements of the Montessori method (e.g. teaching early literacy through a phonic approach embedded in a rich language context, and providing a sensorial foundation for mathematics education). This review also indicates that while some evidence exist that children may benefit cognitively and socially from Montessori education that implements the original principles, it is less clear whether modern adapted forms of Montessori education are as effective.

The Evaluation of the Reggio Approach to Early Education (Biroli, et al, 2017) indicates that the Reggio Approach is positively associated with outcomes related to employment, socio-emotional skills, high school graduation, election participation, and obesity. But they state that their research about the effectiveness of the Reggio Approach is provisional and needs more detailed study.

Summary

During the mid-20th century there was a surge of interest in how children learn, especially after WWII. Montessori and Malaguzzi, like their American, Swiss, and Russian contemporaries emphasized active learning, problem-solving, and self-discovery as critical components of early childhood development.

Ilaria Navarra (Fulbright Scholar 2018-2019)


References

Biroli, P., Del Boca, D., Heckman, J.J., Heckman, L., Koh, K.Y., Kuperman, S., Moktan, S., Pronzato, C. & Ziff,A. (2017). Working Paper Evaluation of the Reggio Approach to Early Education. IZA Discussion Papers, No. 10742, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), Bonn. Available from: https://www.econstor.eu/handle/10419/161365.

Biroli, P., Del Boca, D., Heckman, J.J., Heckman, L., Koh, K.Y., Kuperman, S., Moktan, S., Pronzato, C. & Ziff,A. (2017). Evaluation of the Reggio Approach to Early Education. National Bureau of Economic Researc. A vailable from: https://www.nber.org/papers/w23390.pdf

Edwards, C.P. (2002). Three approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia. Early Childhood Research and Practice 4:1–13. Available fromhttp://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v4n1/edwards.html.

Honebein, P.C. (1996). Seven goals for the design of constructivist learning environments. Available from: https://scinapse.io/papers/100238786.

Marshall, C. (2017). Montessori education: a review of the evidence base. npj Science of Learning(2), id. 11.

Montessori, Maria (1912) 1964. The Montessori Method.


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The Intersection of Legislation, Immigration, and Disability

Early Childhood Interventions October 30, 2018

The rights and needs of people with disabilities are being increasingly recognized in the human rights and development fields. However, these same rights and needs have been historically overlooked in the context of migration. Until 2010, when the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called upon states and UN agencies “to protect and assist refugees with disabilities against all forms of discrimination and to provide sustainable and appropriate support in addressing all their needs,” there had been no disability dimension integrated into international mandates or policies on migration (Refugees and Migrants with Disabilities, 2017).

There are 244 million international migrants (individuals residing in a country different from their country of birth) living all over the world, representing 3.3% of the world’s population (Connor, 2016). This absolute number is up from 173 million in 2000 and 220 million in 2010. The United States is home to more international migrants than any other country - 46.6 million - but only 14% of its population is foreign-born, compared to 28% and 22% of Australia and Canada’s populations, respectively (Connor, 2016). Sixteen million refugees - individuals who cross borders seeking protection from war, persecution, and violence - account for almost 8% of the total worldwide population of international migrants (Connor, 2016).

There is a lack of data regarding the number of international migrants with disabilities, but it is evident that immigrants and refugees with disabilities are more likely to be sidelined in every aspect of humanitarian assistance due to physical, environmental, and societal barriers against accessing information, health, and rehabilitation services and human rights protection (Refugees and Migrants with Disabilities, 2017).

Aside from the challenges they face before and during forced displacement, the legal process - for all refugees, regardless of ability or disability - is long and arduous. Refugee resettlement requires numerous administrative steps before being assigned to a domestic resettlement location and prior to entry into the United States, including: 1) registration with the UN High Commission on Refugees or UNHCR, 2) multiple in-depth interviews, 3) security checks by the F.B.I., the National Counter-terrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community, 4) biometric data collection, 5) a cultural orientation class, and 6) a medical check (U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, 2017). Refugees with disabilities are at risk of not being approved for domestic resettlements if they have a history of or significant risk for harmful behavior toward themselves or others (Disability and Immigration Law in the United States of America, 2013).

The challenges for refugees with disabilities have only been heightened with immigration laws and policies currently in flux. President Trump’s promise to rigorously enforce immigration laws - ending the selective enforcement policies of the Obama administration where individuals who had committed crimes were targeted - is haunting parents of children with disabilities who are in the US illegally (Wiener, 2017). Parents can choose to relocate with their children, to Mexico for example, but many of them would not get the same financial support or quality of care for their children with disabilities (Wiener, 2017). And many of the children were born in the US and are US citizens.

In his first address to a joint session of Congress in February of 2017, President Trump advocated for a shift toward a merit-based system of immigration (Perry, 2017). This new system would prioritize high-skilled, well-educated individuals who would likely never need public assistance - Trump even cited Australia and Canada as examples of countries that give preferences to individuals based on education, employment, and financial means (What a ‘Merit-Based’ System Would Mean, 2017).

The US has actually been somewhat of a trailblazer with regards to refugee admission policy as it related to refugees with disabilities. In 1996, US policy transitioned away from its primary emphasis on accepting those facing political persecution by introducing a new system for determining refugee resettlement. This revised system had an enhanced focus on groups of varying levels of priority, with the “priority one” level given to the most vulnerable, including people with disabilities (Mirza, 2010). This is in sharp contrast to Canada’s immigration policy: the decades-old Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows for people to be turned away if they “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demands on health or social services” (Zaikowski, 2017). This exclusionary policy harkens back to the outdated concept, rooted in a combination of eugenics and utilitarian economics, that people with disabilities are not contributing members of societies and they consume too many resources.

If President Trump’s recent comments are any indication, he would like to see a shift away from this priority given to the most vulnerable refugees (like individuals with disabilities) and only accept individuals who will be “useful” in a purely economic sense of the term. This is concerning in many regards: first of all, who has the power to determine somebody’s ‘merit,’ a concept that is fairly abstract and a word that evades definition even on paper? Chances are, given the rest of President Trump’s government appointments during his term thus far, they will not be particularly well-suited to complete the task they have been assigned (in this case, vetting refugees based on merit) and certainly not be equipped with the knowledge or expertise to consider the disability dimensions of the process. Even more appalling is the prospect of rejecting individuals who would potentially need public assistance – we have to look just north of our border to hear heartbreaking stories of families denied asylum in Canada because one of their children has a birth defect or Down syndrome.

As best stated by David Perry in a headline for his article appearing in The Washington Post last fall, “under Trump, fighting for disability rights means fighting for immigration rights.” He recounts the harrowing tale of a young girl with cerebral palsy who moved to the US with her parents when she was only three months old to receive better medical care (Perry, 2017). During an ambulance ride last October, immigration authorities stopped the vehicle at a checkpoint, determined she was undocumented, and insisted on following her into the operating room before taking her into custody (Perry, 2017). While most people understand the need for immigration laws, this particular scenario struck many as an egregious lack of compassion. It is still an open question how to balance immigration constraints with humanitarian needs, especially for those with disabilities.

Angelica Griggs-Demmin (SNHS ’19)

________________________________________

References Connor, P. (2016, December 15). International migration: Key findings from the U.S., Europe and the world. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fac...

Disability & Immigration Law in the United States of America. (2013). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/soc...

Hurley, L. (2018, January 20). Supreme Court to decide legality of Trump travel ban. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/articl...

International Migration Report: United Nations of Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2017). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from http://www.un.org/en/developme...

Mirza, M. (2010, July). Resettlement for disabled refugees. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from http://www.fmreview.org/disabi...

Mirza, M., & Heinemann, A. W. (2011). Service needs and service gaps among refugees with disabilities resettled in the United States. Disability and Rehabilitation, 34(7), 542-552. doi:10.3109/09638288.2011.611211

Mirza, M., Luna, R., Mathews, B., Hasnain, R., Hebert, E., Niebauer, A., & Mishra, U. D. (2013). Barriers to Healthcare Access Among Refugees with Disabilities and Chronic Health Conditions Resettled in the US Midwest. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 16(4), 733-742. doi:10.1007/s10903-013-9906-5

Perry, D. (2017, October 28). Perspective | Under Trump, fighting for disability rights means fighting for immigration rights. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com...

Refugees and migrants with disabilities. (2017). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.un.org/development...

Timeline of the Muslim Ban. (2017, December 05). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.aclu-wa.org/pages/...

U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. (2017, January 20). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra...

What A 'Merit-Based' Immigration System Would Mean. (2017, March 04). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/2017/03/04...

Wiener, J. (2017, May 19). The Deportation Fears of Immigrants With Disabled Children. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/he...

Zaikowski, C. (2017, February 03). Canada is a progressive immigration policy dream - unless you have a disability. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com... _________________________________________________________________________ NOTE: For more information on this issue see: Trump Administration Seeks to Bar Immigrants With Disabilities by Michelle R. Davis. Found at: https://www.disabilityscoop.co...

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Early Childhood Education and Disability Bias

Toby Long October 30, 2018

Conscious and Unconscious Biases in Health Care


I took a course in administration and leadership as participant in Georgetown University Certificate in Early Intervention. One of the course’s assignments was to complete an implicit bias quiz. I had taken similar quizzes in previous leadership courses. However, I decided to take the quiz to assess any implicit bias regarding disabilities. Much to my surprise, the results demonstrates a strong association between bias and disability. This information made me consider the thoughts of others who engage with persons with disabilities in both personal and professional spheres.

Being raised by a person with a disability and working with families affected by disabilities for over 10 years can significantly impact one’s view of persons with disabilities. Implicit bias is a relatively new field of study for those who would like to increase inclusion of all types of people and who see multiculturalism positive. The Kirwan Institute of Ohio State University (2015) defines implicit bias as “attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.”

Implicit bias has been documented in all sectors of society. Unfortunately, implicit bias can negatively affect a person’s access to quality healthcare, employment and social justice. Implicit bias in early childhood education (ECE) has little empirical evidence in peer-reviewed research. Capotosto (2015) discussed the importance of addressing implicit biases in ECE due to the significant growth in development that occurs in the first five years of life. Students with developmental delays and disabilities are at a disproportionate higher risk for instructional and behavior challenges in the education settings. Educators may have negative implicit bias towards those with disabilities, which could affect how they engage such students in the classroom. Implicit bias affects all, including those considered good teachers. According to Capatosto (2015), “good” educators could demonstrate behaviors influenced by such biases, even if they explicitly express a desire to improve social equity. School leadership should develop systematic methods to address implicit bias that may affect access to quality early childhood education.

Training about disability, even when not directed solely on bias, has been shown to positively affect attitudes regarding students with disabilities Ntuli and Traore (2013) assessed the effectiveness of training ECE staff to implement disability-inclusive early childhood education best practices. This training included collaborating with related service providers, utilizing assistive technology and differentiating curriculum for children with development delays and disabilities. The authors noted significant attitudinal shifts for both professional and paraprofessional staff after receiving the trainings. Before training, staff expressed their concern that they did not understand what constituted “inclusion education” and they were inadequately prepared to support the needs for a disability-inclusive classroom for families of children with disabilities. After completing the training, the staff reported an increase in both understanding and interest of supporting young children with developmental delays and disabilities. Early childhood settings provide opportunities for staff to address implicit bias that may influence negatively educational opportunities. Measuring and collecting data about current approaches to disability-inclusive early childhood practices could provide educators a baseline of how to address specific issues. ECE leaders should use data to make decisions regarding training to promote disability-inclusive best practices.

Implicit bias assessments completed by staff would assist in creating data driven trainings, discussions, and other activities and provide opportunities for honest conversations regarding delicate issues that are often avoided. These discussions can serve as qualitative data from which to base ongoing decision-making as well. Future professional development can pair current special educators with general educators of best practices to support disability-inclusive practices in the classroom. Finally, facilitating peer support within heterogeneous small group instruction will provide young children with disabilities support from both teachers and their peers to access their curriculum (Capatosto, 2015). Addressing disability implicit bias in early childhood education is imperative for improving outcomes for young children with developmental delays and disabilities. Increasing awareness amongst educators regarding implicit bias can facilitate necessary instructional and attitudinal shifts in the classroom. As educators shed their biases they will create more welcoming environments for young children with disabilities establishing a foundation for learning, positive self-identity, and self-confidence.

Sharice Lane (Diversity Fellow, 2017-2018)

References

Capatosto, K. (2015). Implicit Bias Strategies. Kirwin Institute, Ohio State University. Available at: http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu...

Ntuli, E., & Traore, M. (2013). A study of Ghanaian early childhood teachers’ perceptions about inclusive education. The Journal of the International Association of Special Education, 14(1), 50-57.


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Skipping the Straw: The Intersection of Sustainability and Accessibility

no photo
October 30, 2018

The city of Seattle’s July 1st ordinance, closely followed by Starbucks’ July 9th announcement that the company will eliminate their use of plastic straws globally by 2020, have prompted a national discussion around the intersection of sustainability and accessibility. While these recent policy decisions are at the forefront of a necessary environmental push to reduce plastic waste in oceans, plastic straw bans promote sustainability at the cost of accessibility to all, serving as poignant examples of how cities and corporations alike often neglect the needs and voices of people with disabilities.

On July 1st, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban the use of plastic straws and utensils, with businesses facing a fine of up to $250 if they are found to be in violation of the ban. Starbucks followed suit a little over a week later, announcing a gradual phasing out of single-use plastic straws through use of a strawless lid or alternative-material straw options available in their stores around the world. This global commitment is projected to eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year from Starbucks stores. Other businesses and cities are likely to follow suit, with American Airlines, San Francisco, and New York having already vowed or currently considering eliminating the use of straws. Out of all plastic that pollutes the oceans, the question remains: why straws?

Straw bans have quickly gained popularity in recent months because they serve as an easy, low-commitment, initial entry point into the larger issue of plastic pollution. It is simple, effective, and relatively convenient for able-bodied consumers to go without a plastic straw. Buoyed by catchy slogans like “Strawless in Seattle,” “Skip the Straw,” and #stopsucking, straw bans have entered the public’s stream of consciousness with the help of various celebrity campaigns and a disturbing image of a sea turtle with a straw stuck through its nose. The bans help consumers feel that they are doing an environmental good by forgoing the straw while simultaneously raising awareness about the issue of plastic waste in oceans. Yet, bans like Seattle’s ordinance and Starbucks’ recent straw-free announcement exclude the fact that for many people with disabilities, using a plastic straw is a matter of accessibility. Straws are not an amenity or a luxury, but a necessary form of assistive technology that allow consumers with limited mobility to drink. If a business does not include straws when serving beverages, customers with a disability are denied access to a right as basic as something to drink.

Proponents of the straw ban are quick to point out potential accommodations that can be included: there are other materials of straws available, both Seattle and Starbucks’ new policies grant an exception for those with medical or physical needs, and people who truly need straws should bring their own reusable ones. Although all these accommodations exist, they are not friendly to people with disabilities. For consumers who need straws for medical or physical reasons, materials other than plastic do not get the job done. Paper straws dissolve easily and can become a choking hazard, while metal can be too hot or cold, and at times is even painful for those with symptoms like jitters. Plastic straws, although not the most sustainable choice, are currently the best option available due to their low-cost, flexibility for positioning, and ability to safely conduct liquids of different temperatures. Denying people with disabilities access to plastic straws not only restricts what they are able to drink and when they are able to do so, but is fundamentally an issue of accessibility.

Both the city of Seattle and Starbucks included clarifying statements in their respective policies that exceptions would be granted in cases of medical or physical needs. Seattle’s ordinance grants a yearlong exception for those with disabilities through a “waiver for flexible plastic straws, which can be provided to customers who need such a straw due to medical or physical condition” (Archie, Paul 2018). When questioned by the disability community, Starbucks clarified their position in an email, saying “customers are still able to get a straw -- made from alternative materials -- and we will work with the disability community to ensure we continue to meet their needs going forward” (Archie, Paul 2018). Yet, in the case of Seattle, the unfortunate reality is that there does not seem to be widespread awareness of these exemptions. Even if businesses are made aware and have knowledge of an exemption, there is no guarantee that they will automatically comply. This disheartening principle may also play out in Starbucks stores across the country, in addition to the issue that straws made from “alternative materials” are unfriendly for people with disabilities’ use.

Before you ask why can’t people with disabilities merely bring their own reusable straw, take a moment and reflect on why is it that everyone, regardless of ability, doesn’t bring their own straw? Their own reusable mug? Or reusable bag? Simply put, the burden of accessibility should not fall upon people with disabilities. If those who are able-bodied should not be required to carry their own straw around with them, neither should individuals with mobility problems or medical needs. Instead of constantly asking what people with disabilities should be doing to solve the problem, the conversation needs to shift to think of how we can make items accessible to all.

Straw bans are well-intentioned but create a barrier to access for people with disabilities, and the conversation surrounding the bans is representative of a larger issue at hand: why do people with disabilities not have a seat at the decision-making table? By leaving individuals who live the experience of having a disability out of the policy-making conversation, public policy generated by cities and companies alike will continue to exclude those with disabilities. Neither Seattle nor Starbucks appears to have consulted individuals or organizations associated with disability, even when groups such as the Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities, a volunteer organization whose purpose is to advise the city council or agencies on disabilities issues, are present in the public sphere and more than willing to contribute their thoughts and ideas. By including different voices and perspectives at the decision-making stage of the policy process, sustainability and accessibility can collaborate and complement one another. There is not an absolute choice between one or the other, and with some creative thinking, policies can be designed to be both sustainable and accessible. Inclusivity can ensure environmentally-conscious ideas such as the straw ban do not come at the cost of denying the right to assistive technology.

Julia Camilli (Wellesley '20)

References

1. Anapol, Avery. “Seattle Plastic Straw, Utensil Ban Takes Effect.” TheHill, Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., 2 July 2018, http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/395118-seattle-plastic-straw-utensil-ban-takes-effect.

2. Archie, Ayana, and Dalila-Johari Paul. “Why Banning Plastic Straws Upsets People with Disabilities.” CNN, Cable News Network, 12 July 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/11/health/plastic-straw-bans-disabled-trnd/index.html.

3. Danovich, Tove, and Maria Godoy. “Why People With Disabilities Want Bans On Plastic Straws to Be More Flexible.” NPR, NPR, 11 July 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/07/11/627773979/why-people-with-disabilities-want-bans-on-plastic-straws-to-be-more-flexible.

4. @LCarterLong. “Fabulous. Appreciate you sharing it. Will do the same! RT @JoyceTakako: @JodyJotes @DorfmanDoran @DisVisibility @DREDF @LCarterLong When I don’t have enough spoons to deal with the non disabled I just keep posting this chart. I’m tired.” Twitter, 14 July 2018, 5:59 a.m., https://twitter.com/LCarterLong/status/1018117737405603845.

5. Richardson, Valerie. “Plastic Straw Bans Won’t Save Oceans: ‘We’re Trading a Lot for Nothing’.” The Washington Times, the Washington Times, LLC, 12 July 2018, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/12/plastic-straw-bans-wont-save-oceans-alarm-disabled/.

6. “Starbucks to Eliminate Plastic Straws Globally by 2020.” Starbucks Newsroom, Starbucks Corporation, 9 July 2018, https://news.starbucks.com/press-releases/starbucks-to-eliminate-plastic-straws-globally-by-2020.

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