Assistive Technology and the Campaign Trail

(Transcript is in a rough draft format and will be updated to its final version soon.)

The other day, you might have seen this NBC Nightly News segment featuring John Fetterman current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, and U.S. Senate candidate.

Can voters trust that you will be able to do this job on day one. Yeah of course. This is Pennsylvania Democratic senate candidate John Fetterman first in-person sit-down interview since a stroke sideline him from the campaign Trail for months that auditory processing where I’ll hear someone speaking. But sometimes we’ll be able to be precise on what exactly that they’re saying. I use captioning, his campaign required, that he be allowed to use a transcription program on his computer during our interview. I always thought I was pretty apathetic. Emphatic. I think I was very excuse me empathetic, you know, that’s an example of the stroke empathetic.

Difficulty with auditory processing or auditory overload is a common side effect after a stroke this can be temporary or permanent. Every stroke and recovery is different Assistive technology is often suggested to individuals that have an auditory processing impairment as they rehabilitate and adjust to life after a stroke.

I don’t live in Pennsylvania and I don’t know anything about this campaign race other than what I might scroll past on Twitter. So I won’t be talking about any of the specific political stuff but I do want to take a few minutes to speak about assistive technology watching this News segment and how Fetterman’s use of captions during his interview was framed really could give misconceptions about assistive technology and its use.

So assistive technology is any device software or equipment used to maintain or enhance the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. It doesn’t matter if those disabilities are permanent, temporary or situational. In fact, you’re probably already familiar with some assistive Technologies like wheelchairs, hearing aids or dark mode on your favorite app. Assistive technology, doesn’t mean a device has to have a computer chip, be electronic, or have complex engineering. The word technology in the term is used in its most basic meaning of allowing a person to accomplish a task using technical processes methods or knowledge.

Now the assistive technology that Fetterman used in interview was speech to text or voice recognition more, specifically, the captions feature in Google Meet. It translates speech and creates captions in real time for people participating in a meeting.

Speech-to-text is a popular tool for those with and without disabilities. This has led many companies that make computers, phones digital devices to include it as a standard built-in feature. Using assistive technology doesn’t mean someone is unqualified or unfit for a position or role; quite the opposite, As assistive tech enables them to accomplish the necessary duties and tasks they were previously blocked from performing.

While I can’t weigh in on John Fetterman’s overall qualifications As a candidate, I can say that his use of assistive technology isn’t something that should be used to disqualify him or anyone else from public office or employment.

If you want to learn more about assistive technology, I’ve added some links below. That gives a good introduction into how assistive technology is used by people with disabilities. If you would like to learn more about digital or web accessibility, I suggest subscribing to my channel. I post videos about the topic, some of them funny, some of them less funny and so yeah, you should think about subscribing. And with that, I’ll see you next time.

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