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

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

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

It was a quiet week for COVID-19 cases in the West Kootenay. Illustration: B.C. Centre for Disease Control
Two new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

The cases were confirmed for the week of Jan. 10 to 16

The Nelson and District Community Complex ice has mostly been empty this season with the Nelson Leafs’ season on hold due to the pandemic. File photo
Six Nelson sports groups included in provincial grant

The Local Sports Relief Fund is meant to offset pandemic-related expenses

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
Midway Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Most Read