Running for Office with a Speech Disability

Have you ever thought about running for political office? Heres your chance to hear from four people with speech-related disabilities about their experiences running for elected office and otherwise being active in electoral politics.

This one-of-a-kind, 90-minute, live webinar took place on December 15, 2021. An open-captioned, ASL-interpreted video recording is posted above. A transcript of the event is available here. You can listen to an audio recording of the webinar here:

AAC users and others with speech disabilities were encouraged to submit their questions in advance, including the following:

  • How has your speech disability influenced you as an activist as well as a candidate and potential elected official?   
  • How has the public responded -- good, bad or ugly -- to your candidacy?   
  • Knowing what you know now, what would you say to other people with speech disabilities thinking about running and serving in public office?   
  • How has your speech disability affected your campaign strategy?  Do you use more printed materials?
  • What have been the disadvantages of running with a speech disability or as an AAC user?
  • What are the advantages of running with a speech disability/AAC user?
  • How have organizers of forums and debates accommodated your disability, have you had to educate people? How did that go?

Our panelists were India Ochs and Coleman Watson, who have both run for elected office, and Sascha Bittner and Angelica Vega, who have both been otherwise active in politics and elections. All have speech-related disabilities.

When Ms. Ochs ran for School Board in Maryland, she became (to our knowledge) the first full-time AAC user to have run for elected office in the United States. Mr. Watson was motivated by his aphasia to run for the US Senate in his home state of Florida. Ms. Bittner is active in California politics, including serving as an electoral delegate. Ms. Vega has interned on Capitol Hill and with Emily’s List.

DISCLAIMER: This is a strictly nonpartisan event and should not be construed to be an endorsement of any political party or the candidacy of any participant.