This is the first in a new three part series of blog entries on social perception and employment. It is designed to see why it is harder for us to gain employment by looking at how others perceive us and then on how specific misunderstandings can cause problems. However, where I look at these first, I will also give important recognition to where people have broken through these perceptions, where employers are demonstrating good practice and what more can be done to make the playing field a more level place for us all to work on.

I try, wherever possible, not to touch politics in my VI Talk blog. This does not mean, however, that issues will not be discussed and certain opinions aired. I am reflecting viewpoints and not advocating that everybody should subscribe to them. On the contrary, it’s good to hear a variety of opinions; the more diverse at times the better.

On this occasion, I am going to bring in a few political references, but just to make specific points and not to flag up a personal political cause. Now don’t let the mention of politics be a turn off as the following will hopefully stimulate further discussion and feedback.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has often said that those who work hard should reap the greatest rewards. A laudable point in the sense that we should gain more from what we put into work and into society. However, where this badly falls down is that the starting point for everyone to access opportunities is not equal or fairly set. Mr Cameron may argue that we all have opportunities to work hard, but I beg to differ and this is why.

At its most basic level, it comes down to how people perceive and understand those around them. As visually impaired people for instance, we are subject, like other groups, to general perception and understanding. If, for instance, someone, like an employer, hasn’t experienced partial sight or blindness before, then their perception is simply going to be led by their own understanding which is often far from the mark.

This, in many cases, automatically puts us at a disadvantage and the words of David Cameron start to really lack any validity or relevance. We want to work hard, but to achieve this, we need to break down the barriers of misconception, misunderstanding and the resulting inequalities that they bring. True, there are many examples of where people have achieved and these must and will be highlighted. However, when statements are put out that say those who work hard will gain the greatest rewards then those who say such things, must ensure that everything is done to ensure that we all can start from a point where opportunities are there for us to fairly compete for.

In the next entry, I’m going to look at examples of where perceptions have caused problems and to discuss how they can be addressed to promote greater understanding.