I have a confession to make. I’m a nerd. One of the things I’m nerdy about is Star Trek. Even now, years after they have aired, I like to re-watch the various Star Trek series that I particularly like. Of course, I say “confession” but I’m not actually ashamed of it. I like Star Trek! woo hoo!

Anyway. I’ve been re-watching Deep Space 9 for the umpteenth time, and I want to talk about one of the episodes. Specifically, an episode that dealt with disability.

In this episode, we have a character named Melora. Melora comes from a planet with very low gravity, which means that she finds “normal” gravity extremely challenging to cope with (and yes, ST totally ignored things like circulatory problems and just stuck with mobility issues). She needs a wheelchair or a special mobility suit doohicky along with various accommodations in order to function.

All of which is fine and dandy, but what caught my interest was the presentation that while she has a disability in the context of normal gravity, she has particular abilities when you change that context. Due to where she comes from, she is far more functional than everyone around her when the gravity is turned low. Of course, she wants to be able to function in the world most people are in, which means she has to cope with a gravity that is too high for her. It’s either that or don’t leave her planet at all.

However, in the episode she is suddenly offered a cure. She could be “fixed” if she wanted to be, she could have her body changed so that she could handle the gravity that most people consider normal. However, she also has to contend with the fact that it’s not as straightforward as just being a fix. She would lose something in the process. She would never again be able to go home beyond short visits. She would completely lose her affinity with low gravity environments.

In the end, she decides that the price is too high to pay and she would rather stay the way she is, challenges and all. Personally, I really liked this model of disability, and I like the idea that sometimes a change in perspective can make the difference between ability and disability. It matches my perspective on ASDs, so it was nice to see.

Of course, there are requisite disclaimers. Melora works as one model for some disabilities, but it does not work for all of them. In some cases, trying to apply this model would be incorrect or even harmful, like the myth that blind people develop a “sixth sense.” There are also people who disagree with me regarding ASDs, people who view their own spectrum disorder as simply a collection of problems, with no accompanying abilities. While I certainly disagree with them, they have the right to self-define in the way that works best for them.

In the end, you cannot have one model or narrative for disability, as disability is not a monolith. What works for one will not work for another, and it is very very important to remember that. But Melora worked for me, and I found that pretty cool.

1 Comment

Filed under ability, ramble

One response to “Melora

  1. Wow, that episode sounds right up my alley. I look forward to watching it as I make my way through the Star Trek canon; I’m on the fifth season of TNG, so it might take me a while. It’s interesting that you mention the myth about blind people acquiring heightened perception. One of my favorite Star Trek moments occurs in a TNG episode where Troi loses her empathic abilities temporarily and tells off Picard for using disability stereotypes.

    PICARD: I’m sure that after a while you’ll be able to adjust. They say when one loses a sense, the other senses become stronger to compensate. A blind man develops better hearing.
    TROI: With all due respect, Captain, you don’t know what you’re talking about. That is a common belief with no scientific basis, no doubt created by normal people who felt uncomfortable around the disabled. I am disabled, and I’m telling you I cannot perform my duties.
    PICARD: There was a teacher of mine at the Academy who had been confined to a wheelchair since birth. She was a woman—
    TROI: Captain, spare me the inspirational anecdote and just accept my resignation.