but he has super senses: matt murdock’s powers work in such a way that he is taking in dramatically more sensory input than the average person and then interpreting it based on a lot a lot of experience and training. none of that involves anything visual – the mental picture matt constructs based on the sensory information he receives is actually not a picture at all in the same way that listening to an audio drama and tracking the story by sound doesn’t make an image. describing a color by describing items, emotions, smells, sounds, and situations associated with that color may provide equivalent (or even more) information than seeing it would, but that information is distinct from sight, it’s something very much different than looking at it.
this idea really plays into the idea that if disabled people aren’t behaving specifically as expected, they’re actually faking their disability/aren’t worthy of receiving accommodations. that’s super dangerous and has dramatic real-life impacts. it’s especially dangerous in the case of something like blindness, where there’s a spectrum and variety of experiences, many of which involve some light perception/etc.
but he doesn’t need the same accommodations that nonpowered blind people need: so, let me tell you a fun little secret about disability and accommodations: people are different. people need different things. the assumption that all people with a certain disability have the same needs and same methods of approaching their world is really ableist. regardless, matt actually does benefit from a number of tools and skills and resources and accommodations associated with being blind/visually impaired. he uses his cane even after it’s no longer necessary to maintain his secret identity (Daredevil (2014)) suggesting it’s actually valuable to him, he reads Braille whenever possible rather than doing his bizarre fingertip reading (and fuck you immensely, Stan Lee, for suggesting he likes print better), he folds his money (mostly) according to AFB standards (Daredevil (2011) #22). on the show he uses a refreshable Braille display, has items throughout the office labeled in Braille, and has his clothes marked with Braille labels (as shown in season 2). but like, consider: estimates suggest that only 10% of people who are blind/visually impaired read Braille. there’s no singular experience of being blind, just as there’s no singular experience of being sighted.
but radar sense: no matter what ann nocenti might say (Daredevil (1964) #250) and no matter what foggy might suggest (Netflix, Nelson v. Murdock) matt’s radar sense actually doesn’t negate his blindness. his radar sense is often drawn like sight, because comic books are a visual medium and at some point you gotta include images in it, but it’s actually described more as a silent form of echolocation. he’s ‘pinging’ off of his surroundings like a bat in a way that seems more connected to sound than anything else. but regardless the fact that it’s written as a ‘radar sense’ instead of as sight really emphasizes that it’s a different sense, it’s something distinct. it’s just hard to put it into clear words because it’s a sense we don’t have.
but he’s like… a superhero. he can do things nonpowered blind people can’t do: i mean, sure, he can do things nonpowered blind people can’t do. he can also do things nonpowered sighted people can’t do. so can captain america. so can literally any superhero. him having superpowers doesn’t make him not disabled. this assumption that disability and heroism can’t mix is incredibly insidiously ableist.
matt murdock is disabled – is truly actually really disabled – and is also a superhero. matt’s not acting outside of his disability, or negating it, or overcoming it – he’s actually a superhero specifically within his disability. for instance: “I use my blindness to my advantage” (Daredevil (1998) #10). my fave example of this is Daredevil (2011) #20, when matt has to navigate his body around an underground lair while his head is trapped elsewhere (listen: it’s comics). he turns his billy clubs into his cane and sets off – the knowledge and self-awareness he’s learned through living in his disability ‘saves the day’ far more than his super senses or his fighting skills. (on the note of fighting skills – check out Jordan Mouton and Lola Walters).
if erasing disability is the only way you know to approach a disabled character who fills a role you can’t possibly imagine being filled by a disabled person, it’s incredibly likely that what needs to change is your perception of disability, your perception of strength, your perception of heroism.
but the narrative often treats him like a nondisabled character/a sighted character: yeah, that’s largely valid. daredevil has been around for a long time and has gone through a whole slew of writers and illustrators and filmmakers and directors, and many of those folks have limited/no understanding of disability politics, blindness, or, truly, matt murdock as a character. there’s a lot of ableism in the way daredevil is written, the way matt behaves, the way people behave around matt, etc. that’s real and a valid concern about the series.
matt largely falls into the super-crip trope and is actually like, a key example used to explain that trope. but i argue that rather than negating matt’s position as a disabled character, this narrative ableism actually presents a valuable method for approaching ableism in society and in media. matt having a useless cane/using his cane incorrectly/describing himself in language straight out of inspiration porn (Daredevil (2015) #1)/reading by touch/playing into the trope of ‘my other senses more than compensate’/being played by a nondisabled actor/having inaccurate braille/etc actually just illuminates the myriad ways that disability is misrepresented and misunderstood. deciding that matt is ultimately not disabled because of this ableism removes our ability to examine and address it