on toph embodying disability

Originally posted on Twitter.

toph’s “let me know if they have something you can listen to” is such a great line about library accessibility in what is purportedly a world without electricity

it’s especially resonant because the episode opens with her bored on an air bison (where she would have no way of “seeing” anything, as she has no earth to use) and she exclaims, “look, there it is!” and everyone goes to look—she then reminds everyone she’s blind

it’s a fantastic self-deprecating disability joke (if I may say so as someone disabled but not blind) because it plays on the abled assumption that clearly they all have the same sensory capacity, and it’s only afterward that they’re like “wait, we just got played”

when they arrive at the library, katara asks if toph wants to go inside. toph’s like, eh, I’ve never liked books. katara insists. toph is like, well, I mean, I’ve held a book before. finally, katara’s like, “OH, right,” super embarrassed. that’s when toph says the line in OP

as they’re trying to leave the desert, sokka exasperatedly chastises toph for nearly crushing him with a rock as they’re fighting off massive wasps. toph says, “sorry, I couldn’t see where they are in the air” super sarcastically. once again, punches at ableism and not disability

anyway, this arc is an ex. of a secondary world that doesn’t have the technology we have in our world, but, because it’s informed by the power and politics real viewers bring to the story, it consciously punches at ableism even if it’s “irrelevant” to the story (i.e. audiobooks)

when toph identifies the sandbender that stole appa, she does so by voice. katara says “are you sure?” toph says “I never forget a voice.” no further questions. they trust her experience, bringing us around full circle to “let me know if there’s something you can listen to”

oh, and toph repeatedly complaining that she can’t see with the sand, it’s another great moment of disability worldbuilding. because toph isn’t magic. she has adapted to her disability and found a way to augment another sense (touch) to compensate

so, no, she can’t see where boulders go after she throws them. she can’t see the world around her even if she can see the gaang on appa’s back. she stumbles in the desert not because of fatigue, but because her adaptation no longer works there

toph is such a great character because her disability is not inspiration porn. she embodies disability, every pro and con of it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *