What ABC’s new TV series ‘Speechless’ can tell us about ‘voice’
Vice - 09/21/2016
There’s a lot of talk about the new ABC family sitcom Speechless, which premieres tonight. It marks the first time a network show will feature a lead character who uses an augmentative and alternative communication system (or AAC, as speech-language pathologists call it) instead of oral speech to express themselves. For many viewers, teenage J.J. (Micah Fowler, a speaking actor with cerebral palsy) may be the only AAC user they’ve heard of besides Stephen Hawking.
In the pilot episode, which I watched when available online last week, J.J.’s outspoken mom Maya DiMeo (Minnie Driver) is determined “to get [him] a voice” so that he can be placed into a mainstream high school classroom. Here, a “voice” refers to an aide hired to read aloud the words that J.J. points to on the communication board mounted to his wheelchair.