Virginia Democrat uses voice assist to give House floor speech: 'An inspiration'

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) on Monday used voice assist to deliver a speech on the House floor, more than a year after she revealed her Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

“Last year I was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy — or PSP,” Wexton began her floor speech Monday, using voice assist. “PSP makes it very difficult for me to speak, and I use an assistive app so that you and our colleagues can understand me.”

Wexton went on to discuss her bill proposal to rename the Purcellville Post Office in honor of Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of State who lived in Wexton’s 10th Congressional District in Virginia for many years.

Wexton, 55, revealed her Parkinson’s disease last year, saying at the time the disease “has primarily affected” her speech and how her mouth moves. It also impacts her walking motion and how she keeps her balance.

At the time of the April 2023 announcement, she asked that people not feel “sorry” for her and said she has a “positive attitude.”

Months later, she announced she will not run for reelection in light of the prognosis.

“I’m heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community,” Wexton said in a statement in September. “But taking into consideration the prognosis for my health over the coming years, I have made the decision not to seek reelection once my term is complete and instead spend my valued time with Andrew, our boys, and my friends and loved ones.”

The Virginia Democrat has represented the state’s 10th Congressional District since 2019, when she flipped a Republican-held seat during the 2018 midterms. Since then, she has been reelected twice to represent Virginia’s 10th District, consisting of the suburbs outside Washington.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, PSP is “a rare neurological disorder that affects body movements, walking and balance, and eye movements.” The disease can cause severe disability and serious complications within three to five years, per the institute.

Wexton’s usage of voice assist for Monday’s floor speech received high praise on social media.

“Congresswoman Wexton is such a fighter man; even in the face of illness that’s robbed her ability to speak, she’s still fighting every day for the folks she represents. Truly an inspiration we can all learn from,” Isaiah Martin — a Texas Democratic candidate for the U.S. House — wrote on the social platform X.

“Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton gets more inspiring each day. With remarkable courage and grace, she continues to dedicate herself to the 10th district. Her constituents are lucky to have her fighting for them,” Rip Sullivan, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, also wrote on X.

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