OCTOBER 18, 2018 – Many countries, states, and cities are now considering enacting bans on plastic straws, a move hailed by environmentalists as a major step in the right direction. However, for attorney Robyn Powell, whose arthrogryposis limits use of her hands and legs, such a ban would mean that it would become far more difficult for her to drink anything, particularly in public places. “We need to give much more attention to our environment … but as a woman with a disability who depends on straws to drink, I am very concerned about the straw bans,” said Powell. “The straw ban has really demonstrated the extent to which people with disabilities are often excluded from conversations that directly impact them.”
Powell discussed this issue on the inaugural episode of the Ruderman Family Foundation’s podcast, called “All Inclusive.” Jay Ruderman, the president of the Ruderman Foundation and host of “All Inclusive,” hopes that the biweekly, 30-minute podcast will be an opportunity to highlight pressing issues affecting people with disabilities. Ruderman pointed out that too often, as in the case of the proposed plastic straw bans, the disability community is not even factored into the equation when debating public policy, even by normally socially conscious people. “People with disabilities are historically seen as a charity, but not as a group of people whose rights aren’t being recognized,” said Ruderman. “We’re always looking for ways to influence the public discussion. The point of the podcast is get the correct people who are involved with social justice involved with disability rights.”
The foundation has already launched a number of different projects to publicize little-known issues facing people with disabilities. Last year, it launched a series of detailed studies known as “White Papers,” which are multimedia, investigative reports featuring a mini-podcast, a detailed study, and recommendations and best practices. White Papers have focused on issues like mental health issues in first responders, the criminalization of children with non-apparent disabilities, and the prevalence of actors with disabilities, among many others. The foundation has also promoted awareness of these issues through its active use of social media.
The new podcast will continue this tradition by featuring in-depth discussions between Ruderman and guests. Upcoming episodes will focus on the work of Link20, the foundation’s global social network of disability rights activists, the recent win to achieve parity in pay for Paralympic athletes, the implications of self-driving cars on the disability community, and the shocking fact that every week, someone with a disability is murdered by their caregiver.
Ruderman, who has been running his family’s foundation for 10 years, hopes that the podcast will be seen as a helpful resource that covers all aspects of disability rights and inclusion. “The community is set up for particular disabilities – autism, blindness, deafness, veterans,” he said. “Our added value is that we don’t define disabilities. We go across boundaries.”