A Disability Activist Is Asked to Change Her Speech By Boston University Her Response: In Future Speaking Contracts, No Changes will be Allowed

September 22, 2023 1 min read

Kristen Shahverdian, Samantha LaFrance
PEN America

Excerpt: Earlier this month, when disability activist Alice Wong submitted her remarks for a virtual talk at Boston University’s School of Public Health, the school made an unusual request: to change what she planned to say.

Because she cannot speak, Wong requires questions in advance of public appearances. This allows her to type answers ahead of time to more efficiently use a text-to-speech app. Days before the scheduled talk, a school official wrote to Wong, asking that she change “F U Dr. Fauci” to “I disagree with Dr. Fauci” and to remove the names of the other officials. In doing so, the school inadvertently transformed a simple accessibility request into an opportunity to muffle the activist’s speech.

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