When discussing a subject like employment and visual Impairment, it is very easy to look at and highlight the difficulties and problems that many people face. Statistically and anecdotally, finding and retaining work is very hard; especially faced with a range of public and social perceptions that need to be worked through. It is, however, important to note that whilst difficult, gaining and retaining employment is not impossible and with a well-defined set of skills and plans, this pathway is not a closed one for us all.
The last set of blog entries have looked at both sides of the employment coin and have made the case that the inequality that we face can largely be put down to the general perception of Blindness and visual impairment. Like most attitudes and levels of understanding, it is a hard one to change and to alter in favour of redefining social perceptions. Over the last few years, politicians, as aptly demonstrated by Prime Minister David Cameron and others, have aggressively touted the principle of ‘Those who work the hardest, should gain the most’. An interesting and fairly straight forward statement, but one that’s simply floored by the fact that the starting point is not equal for all; especially taking into account the points made through this series in regards to social perceptions.
It can be argued that schemes such as Access to work (here in the UK), give many people the opportunity to gain and retain work. True, in utilising this scheme, many people have been able to access equipment, travel and administrative resources which have enabled them to contribute skills and knowledge to the workplace. However, it can also be argued that when you have a scheme that is economically driven, it is subject to pressures where fiancés are scarce and the quality of support is tied to the amount of money available. There have been many examples of where advisors have not allowed people to access specific equipment because of the cost that it would bring to their claim. Additionally, financial insentivisation alone does not entirely deal with social perception; although it does enable some doors to be open.
I am a great believer in pushing forward in the face of adversity. I have highlighted difficulties, but it is essential to keep going rather than shying away from this; although experience may tell you otherwise. It is also important to ensure that you have a good range of working skills and also try to build up as much experience as is possible; most certainly incorporating volunteering and charitable work. Academic and vocational qualifications are extremely useful and an ability to demonstrate competency in a range of skills such as effective communication, problem solving and flexibility are essential. Additionally, the shaping of a plan of smaller achievements can help to mitigate against any push backs that you may have and ensuring that you remain focused and that you have good action plans are crucial to final success.
I hope that you have enjoyed this miniseries on employment. I’m sure it will be a subject area that I revisit again, but I wanted to open up the debate and to air some opinions on the current state and future outlook within this area.