In our house, lazy is a four-letter word

In our house, lazy is a four-letter word. Probably not for the reasons you think.

I once had a co-worker confess that whenever she saw a person who was overweight and using a mobility-scooter, she couldn’t help but think that if they just got up out of the chair and walked around they would loose some weight, be more mobile and no longer need the scooter. She failed to realize that for people relying upon mobility scooters, degree of mobility is not a matter of choice.

Believe me, I would much rather be walking around a big-box store than trying to manoeuvre with my walker or wheelchair. On days where I am in bed until noon, it is not a choice, or a matter of being lazy, I am physically unable to get out of bed and would rather be doing anything but having to rest. Including standing on-line at the bank, anything productive.

In fact, before mobility and pain became issues in my life, I swam five miles a week and ran two. At twenty I commuted 40 km by bicycle from the suburbs of Weston to downtown Toronto daily. As a competitive swimmer, I probably logged more hours in the water than in bed my teenage years. Lazy isn’t the issue, ability is.

Normally, I believe that when it comes to accessibility, there tends to be too much focus on terminology, focus that would be better served improving awareness and accommodation. With the obvious exception of the “R-word”, one of the most offensive terms there is with regard to disabilities. Other than in a strictly clinical sense, and preferably not even then, it should not be used. Ever.

But for me, the word lazy, has negative, failure, choice-related connotations that get under my skin. It also implies a belief in the mind-over-matter theory that can have similar connotations of failure. That if you really try, really put your mind to it, you can. And that those of us who can’t, just aren’t trying hard enough. While I am beyond-words thrilled for those who overcame a “will never walk again” diagnosis, for persons with disabilities who do not overcome the odds, imposing additional feelings of failure are neither helpful, nor healthy.

I realize too, that in our household when a step-child uses the dreaded lazy, it is most likely an innocent interpretation of their mother’s “it’s a beautiful day outside, get off the couch and stop being lazy” quote from the mother handbook. But still, it gets under my skin.