Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) became emotional on Thursday while speaking about the challenges people with disabilities face and recalling the bullying he endured after suffering a stroke last year.
During a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, the senator held up his phone to show the transcription app that helps him to follow conversations.
After his life-threatening stroke in May 2022, Fetterman was left with an auditory processing disorder, which is common among stroke survivors.
“I have lost my ability to fully process language,” Fetterman said, describing the “profound” benefit the technology had on his life.
“Because I live in a political environment, I was ridiculed and made fun of because I wasn’t able to process things sometimes or say anything,” he said, choking up. “So I’m so sorry that I’m sure many of you had to go through this kind of thing.”
The focus of the Senate hearing was ensuring government technology is accessible to older adults, veterans and people with disabilities. Several disabled people and disability advocates provided witness testimony.
Fetterman asked how senators can “become more empathetic, more responsive and more effective” to provide the support and services that people in disabled communities deserve.
“I think it just takes political will and the will to become accessible,” replied one of the witnesses, accessibility engineer Chris Westbrook. “It takes making it a priority. And just, you know, deciding it is going to be a priority.”
Fetterman’s health became a major focus during the Pennsylvania Senate race. His Republican opponent, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, made ugly taunts about the stroke.