Geordi La Forge shines a light on the blind community

LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Joe Pugliese/Paramount+. © 2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.
LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Joe Pugliese/Paramount+. © 2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Author’s note: This piece is dedicated to Todd and Angel Black, who raised me up to be my own Geordi La Forge.

When the Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, had the earliest ideas and machinations of what would become Star Trek (a franchise that would span nearly 56 years, 9 TV series, and 13 films) from its inception, Trek was always meant to be more then just another laser-blasting space adventure.From its onset, Star Trek was meant to tackle the social and political issues of the day and do so while operating under the façade of a space opera “adventure of the week” television show.

The diversity that Rodineerry wanted Trek to represent was established almost immediately when the bridge crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise featured an African-American womand as the communications officer, an Asian-American man as its helmsmen, and even a man of a different species as its science officer. Inclusion of not only different races, but religions, political views, ideologies, and cultures would persist and endure throughout the entire three season run of the original series.

Nearly twenty years after the cancellation of TOS, Star Trek: The Next Generation would keep up the tradition started by the original show by incorporating several different races, genders, and even species into its main cast, but the one entirely new element that was introduced by TNG, was a character that was blind.

Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge (played brilliantly by LeVar Burton) was borne completely blind and wore a visor (Visual Instrument and Sight Organ Replacement) over his eyes. The visor has a direct interface with Geordi’s brain, allowing him to “see” much of the electromagnetic spectrum, including infrared and ultraviolet.

Despite the total blindness of the character, for the first season, Geordi La Forge was the helmsmen of the Enterprise D (a blind guy was driving the ship). At the beginning of season two, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and in season three to Lieutenant Commander and was the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise for the remainder of the series run and into the four TNG films.

Geordi La Forge
Geordi La Forge /

Geordi La Forge proved that disabilities didn’t have to prevent anyone from achieving their goals.

Throughout the run of the original series, many episodes highlighted the strength and inclusion of those of different races, genders, religions, political affiliations, cultures, and even species. With the character of Geordi, TNG was able to show how those with “disabilities” prevail over adversity and overcome obstacles, even in daily situations such as carrying out job duties or nurturing healthy, human relationships.

An unfortunate truth, even in our world today of 2022, is a frighteningly common misconception that those who are blind (or “disabled” in some way) do not live the lives of “normal” people, such as working a full-time job, living alone and independently, or fostering healthy relationships with friends and romantic partners, Geordi was one of the earliest examples of a completely blind character on television to go against such a ridiculous notion, and not only was Geordi totally blind, he did not view it as a hindrance, but rather  he was proud to be so.

Unfortunately for Geordi, he faced some of the same ignorance and prejudice, even in the futuristic world of Star Trek, that those with blindness and other disabilities face in 2022. During the episode “The Enemy,” Geordi finds himself stranded on a planet that is experiencing harsh electromagnetic storms that interfere with his visor. During his exploration of the planet, he is attacked by an injured Romulan. Geordi overpowers the injured Romulan, but they both soon realize they will have to work together if they are to survive the storms and escape from the planet.

As they talk, the Romulan is shocked and horrified to learn not only of Geordi’s blindness but also that he was borne that way. The Romulan is stunned Geordi’s parents even allowed him to live, not only live, but wasted time and resources on such a “weakness.”

Throughout the rest of the episode, Geordi uses his visor and tricorder to as a compas, and he acted as the Romulan’s disabled legs, and the Romulan acted as Geordi’s eyes. While early on in the episode the Romulan deemed Geordi unworthy of life due to his blindness, it was Geordi’s presence on the planet and his accessibility device that saved them both.

The discrimination against Geordi La Forge and other people with disabilities continued in “Masterpiece Society.”

During this episode, the Enterprise and its crew discover a race of people who have been genetically modified to eliminate all imperfections. The leader of these people goes so far as to use Geordi as an example of just how far their society has evolved beyond, stating that no one in their society would ever have to be borne blind or live with such a defect as blindness, for that sort of a “mistake” would not occur when using genetic engineering.

During the course of the episode, Geordi states he has never been embarrassed by his blindness. He goes on to ask the inhabitants of the planet why their leaders should get to decide if a life with blindness holds meaning or not.

Now my fellow Trekkies, if you don’t mind, I would like to get a little personal with you.

I have been writing for this fine website for almost a year now. I have dropped some hints here and there in pieces I have written, but for those of my faithful readers who might not be aware, I myself was borne completely blind and have been for the last 34 years.

There are so many characters in Trek that represent inclusiveness for all, but the character that speaks to me the most for obvious reasons is that of LeVar Burton’s Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge.

Just as Geordi uses his other sences and assistive technology to go about his daily tasks and perform his job aboard the Enterprise, so do I. I live alone, taking care of all responsibilities that any sighted 34-year old adult man must see to (no pun intented), including working a full-time job (albeit not nearly as dangerous or as exciting as Geordi’s job on the Enterprise D).

I am a son, a brother, a friend, a worker, and most importantly, a father to two beautiful children, and my complete lack of sight has never stood in the way of my total independence when performing all the functions that come with these life roles, and when obstacles do present themselves, much like my TNG counterpart, I find a way around them.

Also, much like my TNG counterpart, I meet ignorance head on, unabashedly and with no shame or self pity of who I am. and I am not the only one. I am acquainted with (and in a lot of cases close friends with) other blind men and women who are just as independent as I amk, if not more so.

While Geordi perfectly illustrates just what people who are blind are capable of, his influence does not stop with the blind, but extends to all those with any and all sorts of disabilities all over the world, who are out there, working jobs, taking care of their families, paying their bills, participating in hobbies and passions, and living independent lives.

Also in the same vein as Geordi, I am not ashamed of my blindness, nor do I wish I was any different at all. This is exactly the way I was made, it was not a mistake or an accident. Despite our “disabilities” and maybe sometimes even because of them, Geordi, me, and so many just like us, live rich, fulfilling lives, and Geordi was one of the first, if not the first, example of this type of independence from someone with a “disability” on a mainstream television program.

No character on Trek that I am aware of has better represented this particular group of individuals then Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge.

LeVar Burton says The Next Generation chemistry is better than before. dark. Next