Veronica With Four Eyes

Seven Disability Hacks For Drinking Straws

I previously wrote a blog post about plastic straw bans and how they affect people with disabilities, and focused on how straws can serve as a type of assistive technology for people who have trouble drinking from a standard cup. After spending time thinking about this issue, I realized that drinking straws can be used to help people with disabilities in a variety of ways that go beyond just enjoying a cold drink, and decided to replace the previous post with this version that’s much more interesting. Here are seven disability hacks for drinking straws, some of which can be used with both single use and reusable straws.

Straw hack 1- create a positioning aid

I’ve seen drinking straws used as a positioning aid in occupational therapy contexts in a few different ways. One option is to create a DIY straw positioning aid by gluing pieces of a larger straw to a clothespin, and inserting the smaller straw through the larger straw piece. This makes it easier to not have straws move away towards the edge of the cup.

Another way I’ve seen straws used as a positioning aid was in the context of positioning the head for using a computer/web cam and focusing the eyes. This can be done by adding a straw topper or taping an image to the top of the straw and placing it behind the camera, so it is easier to make eye contact. For kids interested in cartoon characters, there are lots of options for different characters at a party supply store or the party planning aisle.

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Straw hack 2- keep necklaces from getting tangled

When I was packing my necklaces before moving, I cut small portions of plastic drinking straws and threaded my necklace chains through the straw, closing the clasp once the chain was threaded through. This kept my necklaces from getting damaged while moving and when I needed short-term storage, and I have reused the straw pieces from year to year. 

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Straw hack 3- hull strawberries without a knife

When I was living in a dorm, I didn’t have access to a sharp knife or cutting board, but I still bought strawberries at the grocery store when they were on sale. One option for hulling strawberries and taking off their green tops without a knife is to push a drinking straw through the base of the strawberry, which removes the hull and makes it easier to eat. I’ve also seen this hack used for cherries, but have not personally tested it.

Straw hack 4- design a 3D maze

A 3D maze activity is awesome for kids with vision loss, as it provides a tactile option and audio feedback as the object moves around the drinking straws. There are tons of different straw maze templates available online that use construction paper, boxes, and various types of straws, though I prefer to use plastic straws since they hold their shape better than paper ones and provide more sound feedback when marbles roll through them.

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Straw hack 5- pen holder

One way to keep pens easily secured to the side of a notebook or journal is to glue a trimmed piece of straw to the cover or side of the book, and slide a pen through the opening. This can also be helpful for securing a stylus or other long objects that could easily get loose in a backpack.

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Straw hack 6- lightweight garland

My friend created a lightweight garland in their dorm by threading colorful straws onto string, alternating sizes and colors/patterns to create a fun display that looked great against their wall. In this case, they used paper party straws from a craft store that had lots of fun patterns and created about five different garlands, which were layered on top of each other. Another fun option would have been to add beads between straws, such as large wood beads.

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Straw hack 7- bubble paint

When I took a pottery class in elementary school, I had trouble painting a lot of the interesting patterns and small-scale designs due to poor coordination. In order to make my designs more “fun”, my teacher suggested we use bubble paint techniques, which involve mixing a ratio of 3 parts bubble solution with two parts paint. This can also be done with paper crafts and other types of art projects for painting without a brush.

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More disability hacks for drinking straws

  • Do you have trouble positioning shorter straws in a cup? Consider ordering extra large drinking straws, which can help aid with positioning
  • Looking for more DIY assistive technology ideas? Check out my Pinterest board DIY Assistive Technology by Veron4ica: Pinterest

Not just for drinking, here are seven disability hacks for drinking straws and straw hacks that can help people with disabilities as assistive technology