Season 2, Episode 6
Although representation of disability is not typically the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Star Trek, one should consider that one of the show's main characters has a disability. Geordi LaForge (LaVar Burton) is blind, and sees the world through his high-tech visor. La Forge explains several times throughout the series that while his visor does allow him to visually interpret the world, it does not give him real human vision. He cannot see as other humans do.
The main plot in this episode revolves around the ship encountering a famous deaf peacemaker who uses three different translators to negotiate peace all over the galaxy. This method works so well for the peacemaker that when his translators are killed, he becomes enraged and has lost all ability to communicate. This puts everything in danger, as he can longer negotiate peace or instruct the crew. He is unable to communicate with anyone until another crew member learns his sign language, and eventually, he does begin peace negotiations. One character actually tells the peacemaker to “make an advantage out of a disadvantage.” He ends up making peace on a planet by teaching them all sign language, so that they will have a common ground. This plot seems to show that disability can be turned into ability; in this case it inspires a language bridge between two cultures.
Meanwhile, in this same episode, the ship’s physician tells La Forge that she can “fix” his eyes and give him normal human vision. At first he sounds excited, having always been told that it was impossible. But suddenly La Forge’s mood changes. “I don’t know,” he says, “I’d be giving up a lot.” In this sub plot, it is shown that disability is another way for people to be unique, and perhaps the potential for difference between people is a thing to be celebrated.