XI'AN, CHINA - 2018/05/30: A girl drinks a Starbucks coffee with a plastic straw. Starbucks announced on July 9th that it would ban the use of plastic straws in its 28 thousand stores before 2020. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A new effort to reduce pollution has been trending on a national scale. Recently, companies like Starbucks have announced policies intended to reduce the production and use of plastic straws. While the full effect of this policy won't be felt until 2020, Starbucks estimates that the move will eliminate more than 1 billion straws globally, most of which currently end up in landfills.

Last year, a video showing a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nose went viral. In the aftermath, campaigns like #StopSucking—an effort to free oceans from plastic waste—have gained notable traction. In addition to Starbucks, many local municipalities and communities are likely to follow suit with their own bans. According to CNN, American Airlines will be eliminating plastic straws on its flights, in favor of stir sticks.

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In 2017, Sesame Street introduced a new character, Julia, a yellow Muppet preschooler who has autism. Julia exhibits behaviors that are associated with people who have an autism spectrum diagnosis, such as difficulty maintaining eye contact and repetitive speech.

The children’s program has always featured a diverse cast of Muppet and human characters to represent the neighborhood’s different ethnic, racial, age, gender, and monster groups, and its commitment to portraying a complex and realistic community extends to characters who experience medical differences. Linda, a deaf librarian; Tarah, a girl with osteogenesis imperfecta who uses a wheelchair; and Kami, a Muppet with HIV, show young viewers that people with disabilities or health challenges are part of everyone’s neighborhoods.

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November 2015: Candidate Donald Trump appears to mock Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter who suffers from arthrogryposis, a condition which limits the movement of joints and is particularly noticeable in Kovaleski’s right arm and hand. (Screenshot via Youtube)

In 2017, the GOP moved to erode voting rights, Medicare, Meals on Wheels, access to education, and other protections — including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

When Donald Trump cruelly mocked a disabled reporter on the campaign trail in 2016, disabled people took notice, and were dismayed to realize that they were among the “undesirables” the candidate and his party were targeted for future harm. The first year of the Trump administration has made the threat real, as Trump and the GOP Congress have pursued legislation that will put limits on access to health care, education, opportunities, and voting rights for Americans with disabilities. Even the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is in the crosshairs.

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There are an estimated 3.5 million Americans on the autism spectrum, a number that continues to grow. An estimated 50,000 people on the spectrum enter adulthood – and the potential workforce – each year.

Though many on the spectrum are considered high functioning, recent research finds that 40 percent of young autistic adults are unable to find employment. Across all ages, the number is even more staggering – with some research showing that upwards of 80 percent of those who fall on the spectrum are unemployed, despite the majority wanting employment.

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