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John Fetterman using assistive technology in Senate as he recovers from stroke

Senate personnel have installed a closed caption display to assist freshman Sen. John Fetterman as he continues to struggle with lingering auditory processing issues as a result of a stroke he suffered on the campaign trail last year, a report said.

The new assistive technology has been added despite the Senate’s strict rules banning members from using certain electronic devices, such as cellphones, on the chamber’s floor.

The Sergeant at Arms installed the permanent live caption display monitor at Fetterman’s desk in the Senate chamber to allow him to read typed closed-captions in real-time as members speak, according to a Time magazine report

Similar technology has also been installed into a custom desk stand that will be used on the dais in situations where the 53-year-old senator must preside over the Senate.

The two screens can function without internet, with remarks from senators being transcribed by the Senate Office of Captioning Services’ stenotype machines, caption encoding hardware, and Capitol Building staffers. 

In an effort to make the new assistive technology blend in with the Senate chamber’s 19th-century mahogany desks, the Sergeant at Arms also plans to add a monitor stand that matches the woodwork of the desks. 

Sen. John Fetterman is using assistive technology in the Senate chamber as he continues to recover from a stroke he suffered while campaigning last year, according to a report.
Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA

Fetterman will also have access to a wireless tablet during committee hearings that will display captions written by professional broadcast captioners. 

The Sergeant at Arms is working toward making closed captioning technology available for all Senate hearings, according to the Time magazine report. 

“I am proud of the work our team has done to support Senator Fetterman and am grateful to the many Sergeant at Arms professionals who worked quickly to develop and implement these innovative solutions,” Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson told the news outlet in a statement. 

The Sergeant at Arms installed a closed caption monitor at Fetterman's Senate chamber desk.

Fetterman suffered a life-threatening stroke in May 2022 just days before winning the Keystone State’s Senate primary. 

The episode left him with speech difficulties and trouble processing questions unless they are written or typed out. 

He held limited public appearances on the campaign trail as he recovered, and beat his Republican opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz in the general election. 

Fetterman famously used two 70-inch TV monitors equipped with closed captioning during his October debate with Oz, during which he struggled to speak coherently and answer key questions despite the assistive tech. 

One of his former desk neighbors in the Senate told Time that it has been easy conversing with the freshman Democrat.  

“He’s got his iPad and he just reads speech-to-text,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said. “He’s been very engaged.”