Disability in Avatar: The Last Airbender

There are two characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender that I really want to focus on.

The first is Teo, from the episode “The Northern Air Temple.” The main characters, on their journey, hear rumors that a race that was previously thought to have been the victim of genocide (the airbenders) are still alive. One of the main characters, Aang, who is an airbender that was able to escape the fate of the rest of his people, decides to go. To his disappointment, finds out that it is just another group that settled in their place. The reason they believed them to be airbenders was because one of these nonbenders had created a method of flight. His name is Teo, and we discover that he is paralyzed, using a wheelchair, and unable to walk. At first, the main trio is skeptical of his abilities to do anything by himself, but come to understand that he is capable of doing anything that they are.

They also come across Toph, a blind earthbender who is fated to be Aang’s teacher. When he finds out she is blind, he is sure there is a mistake, but finds out that she has the ability to use seismic sensing through her feet to understand the moves of her competitors. He comes to understand that what she lacks in sight, she makes up for in intuition, and this makes her the most qualified teacher. She goes on to join the gang and becomes a main character in the show.

I think these two examples are really important as I truly believe it is important to have characters in children’s television shows that depict a wide range of different kinds of people accurately and in a way that can help them understand instead of judge.

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