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Virginia Democrat robbed of voice by 'Parkinson's on steroids' is first to use text-to-speech device on House floor

Katie Balevic   

Virginia Democrat robbed of voice by 'Parkinson's on steroids' is first to use text-to-speech device on House floor
  • Rep. Jennifer Wexton became the first to use a text-to-voice app for a speech on the House floor.
  • Wexton has a disease referred to as "Parkinson's on steroids."

An early-career Virginia Democrat is leaving office following her diagnosis with a disease known as "Parkinson's on steroids," but she's breaking new ground on her way out of the Capitol.

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, who beat a Republican incumbent in 2018 to represent Virginia's 10th congressional district, announced a year ago that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson's but insisted she would remain in Congress, Business Insider previously reported.

About six months later, she changed course and announced she would retire at the end of the term.

"I wasn't making the progress to manage my symptoms that I had hoped," Wexton said in a statement in September, noting that her doctors "modified my diagnosis to Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy — a kind of 'Parkinson's on steroids.'"

Since then, she became the first member of Congress to address the House floor using an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device that translates text to speech, according to The 19th.

"I hope I can show that even as debilitating a diagnosis as this doesn't have to mean you are powerless," Wexton told CNN, using the device. "Whatever your politics, when it comes to illness, 'progressive' is not a good thing to be."

Virginia primaries are set for later this month to determine VA-10's candidates for the November election, and they are shaping up to be highly competitive. One expert told WAMU, DC's NPR affiliate, that it could be one of the "most expensive Democratic congressional primaries in the history of Virginia."

It comes as the state, which Biden won easily in 2020, is turning purple, alarming Democrats and giving hope to supporters of former President Donald Trump.


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