Monday, April 20, 2015

Daredevil is Blind

Foggy Nelson: "A blind old man taught you the ancient ways of martial arts. Isn't that the plot to Kung Fu?" (Marvel's Daredevil, Netflix, Episode 10)
I've got a review of "Scenes of ordinary disability" in Daredevil coming out later today from Vice. Edit - Link is here!!

In today's blog, I want to say a few more things about the nature of Matt Murdock/Daredevil's disability. Yes, thanks to his heightened senses, he can create a full map of his space in real time, helping him with Kung-Fu, knowing if people are nodding or flicking him off, and otherwise navigating the world just fine. He's a superhero. He can do things that real humans, blind or not, cannot do. In the show, it's his hearing that gets the most play - he tracks a car based on the music inside it while running over the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen. He hears Kingpin talking on a radio inside a truck from some distance away. These are cool superpowers!

But what he can't do is read a license plate.
He can't read a digital alarm clock.
He can't read a message printed on his cell phone.

I emphasize this because I think it's easy to miss the ways in which Murdock is in disabled. And if you miss that, you also miss the ways in which he's got little bits of assistive technology that help.

He uses a refreshable Braille display.

Image: Refreshable Braille display. From Wikimedia Commons
He uses a screen reader (a program that reads words on computer screens as well as provides other kinds of command information. It's why I put descriptions of images on my page, as I know I have some blind readers. And honestly, all websites should do it all the time).

His cell phone talks to him. "Karen calling. Karen calling." His alarm clock talks to him. "It's 7 o'clock."

These are just small little bits of assistive technology that make independent living more possible for blind people.

And so while Murdock is a superhero, he's still blind. He still has a disability.

And that's why how Marvel/Netflix represents his blindness matters so much to me and to so many people in the disability community, because however you count it, he's one of the two or three most prominent disabled characters in comics history (Professor X - his legs, not his mutant powers, Daredevil, and Oracle/Batgirl).

Previous item: Comics, Disability, and Race.

Edit: Updated to correct assistive tech terminology.