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Neil McDevitt, ’96, wrote an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 14. The piece, titled “Fetterman needs closed captioning. So what?” addresses the importance of accommodations for people with disabilities. 

John Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey. The competition between Fetterman and Republican candidate Mehmet Oz is one of several highly visible races in this year’s midterm elections. 

Fetterman had a stroke in May which has affected his speech and auditory processing. He opted to use closed captioning in his campaign appearances, including his debate with Oz this past Tuesday evening. 

McDevitt, who is mayor of North Wales Borough, Pennsylvania, wrote: “To do my job effectively, I use American Sign Language interpreters during formal meetings and events. These trained professionals make sure I have access not only to the spoken language in the room but also to the tone and temperature in the room. In impromptu and informal situations, I use automated transcription apps to bridge that gap.” 

He compared his own experience with that of Fetterman, continuing, “It’s truly unfortunate that media coverage, his political opponent in the Senate race, and Pat Toomey, the outgoing senator whose seat Fetterman is seeking, are standing on the wrong side of history to judge Fetterman by his accommodations and his disability, not by his qualifications or his knowledge…Imagine if we judged Franklin Delano Roosevelt solely by his wheelchair. Or if Sen. Bob Dole, who had lifelong injuries in his arm and hands after serving in World War II, was never elected to office. In 2012, Sen. Mark Kirk suffered a stroke but continued to serve until 2016 when he lost to Tammy Duckworth, who also has disabilities from her military service in Iraq.”

MeDevitt, who is also executive director of Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre, a nonprofit serving deaf, hard of hearing, and deaflind people in the greater Philadelphia area, became mayor of North Wales Borough in January 2022. He is believed to be the first deaf person to be elected mayor of a municipality anywhere in the United States in modern times. It is his hope that his Inquirer op-ed will raise public awareness about the value of people with disabilities serving in elected posts.

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