Lawmaker Funago 1st to Use Text-to-Speech at Japan Diet

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Lawmaker Yasuhiko Funago asks a question at the plenary session of the House of Councilors on Friday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Lawmaker Yasuhiko Funago, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, on Friday became the first in Japan to ask questions using a text-to-speech function of a computer in a parliamentary plenary meeting.

Funago, a House of Councillors member of opposition Reiwa Shinsengumi, attended a plenary meeting of the upper chamber of the Diet for party representatives to question Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on his policy speech delivered Monday.

Using the function to read out a prepared speech on his laptop, Funago urged Kishida to reduce defense spending.

According to the secretariats of both Diet chambers, it was the first time for questioning to be held at a plenary meeting with the use of such machine assistance.

Funago took the rostrum accompanied by an assistant and others.

“The path has opened up not just for myself but also for other artificial respirator users and those with speech impediment to ask questions in a plenary meeting room,” Funago said.

Funago, elected to the Upper House in 2019, is in his first term. He is unable to speak aloud after developing ALS in his 40s.

Reiwa Shinsengumi, created in 2019, was given an opportunity to ask questions on government policy speeches at the Diet for the first time after boosting its Upper House strength to five seats from two in last year’s election.