Currently, Peanut is on a Magic School Bus kick. This is fine with me: I’ve been known to watch The Magic School Bus when I chanced upon it while flipping through the channels a time or two, and this long before I had children. The fabulous Lilly Tomlin voices the equally fabulous Ms. Frizzle, they travel on a magic school bus that allows them to explore the natural world in ways impossible for most of us, and it’s beautifully written. What’s not to love?
Today, as I sat wheezing while the kids watched their current favorite show, I realized that there’s a blind character on the episode they’re watching: Phoebe’s Dad. It’s Episode 4 of Season 2, “Going Batty.” The children’s parents are coming to a nighttime event at the school to see a project their children have been working on, and Ms. Frizzle takes them on a field trip to an old mansion where they learn all about bats.
Phoebe’s Dad is presented as an ordinary parent who just happens to be blind. He folds up his cane as he gets into the school bus, gets off the bus by himself, responds to audio stimuli (he notes the bats flying over their heads while the other parents duck), and navigates his environment really well. He points out the roughness of the wall, helping viewers understand how bats would be able to hold on to it. He’s a useful, active character in the episode.
What’s awesome about Phoebe’s Dad in the episode is that he’s just like everybody else. He’s a competent, independent adult and parent who just happens to be blind. What a fabulous image for Peanut to encounter on an otherwise dreary day!