Why That John Fetterman Interview Caused a Furor

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This week, John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the Senate from Pennsylvania, appeared in what NBC News billed as his first on-camera, one-on-one interview since he had a stroke in May. The interview went well and was conducted with Mr. Fetterman and the reporter, Dasha Burns, sitting in the same room, as Mr. Fetterman used a captioning system on a computer screen to assist him with his auditory processing, something he has needed help with since the stroke.

Ms. Burns introduced the interview to the news anchor Lester Holt by saying, “In small talk before the interview without captioning, it wasn’t clear he was understanding our conversation.” With that one statement, Ms. Burns shifted the conversation away from a necessary adaptation to implying that NBC was doing Mr. Fetterman a favor by using captioning and that it was a problem for the candidate that he needed technology to reliably converse.

Her comment suggests that certain kinds of accommodation are illegitimate. Would Ms. Burns have made a similar remark if a wheelchair user couldn’t get around without a wheelchair? Are you wearing contacts or glasses to read this essay? It is our accommodations, often but not exclusively technological in nature, that make it possible for many of us to do our jobs. This is no less true for politicians than it is for the rest of us. Continue reading here

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