Why set up a Disability Employment Service? Or, to go back to basics, why create a legislative framework such as Australia’s Disability Services Act 1986?

Those of us with long experience in the field might yield to cynicism and disappointment when contemplating these questions in 2016. We might mutter darkly about where the road paved with good intentions inevitably leads. Myself included.

However, the answers remain clear to me, even after thirty years in disability employment services. For one thing, there are so many benefits of employment for the most disadvantaged citizens. For another, people with significant disabilities experience barriers to work and need extra time and specialist support to reach the goal of employment.

It sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

But the model we set out with in Australia is no longer working.

Here’s a question for you:

Would you like a white one or a green one?

Come on, decide! What’s it to be? White or green?

Of course, you answer will depend on whether it’s a yoghurt or a late-model jaguar. If you’re being offered yoghurt then you’ll go with white but if it’s a jaguar it’s best to choose green.

Choice is only choice when you know and understand your options.

So it goes with the rolling out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Hallelujah! Finally, people with a disability are being asked what they want and what they need. This can only be a good thing, right?

Mostly right.

The National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS) approach suits educated and articulate people with disability, people who know their options and understand the consequences of their choices. For many vision-impaired and hearing-impaired people and people in wheel chairs, the NDIS can’t come soon enough.

However, the people who couldn’t speak up before – those with significant intellectual disability or severe mental illness – are being asked to make the same choices, with the same level of guidance and support as educated and articulate individuals. Within the NDIS there’s an assumption of capacity that doesn’t represent the whole group.