Third Annual Self-Determination Conference to Showcase Achievements of People with Developmental Disabilities

University of Hawaiʻi
Susan Miller, (808) 295-0659
Center on Disability Studies
Heather Wong, (808) 956-6219
College of Education
Posted: Oct 20, 2003

The guiding principle of self-determination—the ability to control one‘s life, to achieve self-defined goals and to participate fully in society—is the central element in the development of individual goals for all people, including those with developmental disabilities. It is the focus of a two-day conference, entitled "Making It On Our Own," that will be held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24-25, 2003.

Among the keynote speakers are former Olympian silver medalist and Paralympian Jean Driscoll and Wisconsin Social Security System Senior Analyst Joe Entwisle. More than 500 people with developmental and other disabilities and their families, professionals, educators, advocates, service providers and artists with developmental disabilities statewide are expected to attend.

The aim of the conference is to demonstrate the progress being made by people with developmental disabilities, and to present the most current information, opportunities and options in housing, employment and community living available to people with disabilities and their families.

"This conference is an opportunity to showcase the accomplishments of individuals with developmental disabilities who have found different ways to express themselves and contribute to our community," said Dr. David Fray, Division Chief of the Developmental Disabilities Division of the Hawaiʻi Department of Health. "While people with developmental disabilities are at different stages of their journeys, it‘s important to note the successes already achieved and the many choices available for others to consider," he added.

Cassilly Woll and her circle of supporters will also participate as keynote speakers. Woll and her family and friends were the subjects of a Hawaiʻi-made video entitled "Cassilly Goes to College," which illustrates how one family made decisions and navigated to promote its daughter‘s right to self-determination and independence.

The conference also includes a crafter‘s mini gallery on display at the Palace Lounge from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The public will be able to view and purchase fine arts and crafts created by artistic and creative individuals with developmental disabilities. It will showcase emerging and successful micro-enterprises owned by people with disabilities. See the story below for a profile of one of the artists to be featured at the conference.

The conference is sponsored by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health‘s Developmental Disabilities Division in collaboration with the Disabilities and Communication Access Board, Easter Seals Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Centers for Independent Living, Hawaiʻi State Council for Developmental Disabilities, Poʻohala Family Support Council, Special Parent Information Network, University of Hawaiʻi Center for Disability Studies, University of Hawaiʻi Conference Center and VSA arts of Hawaiʻi-Pacific.

For more information about the conference, call (808) 453-6325. The deadline to register for the conference is Friday, Oct. 24.



In early September on the island of Lanaʻi, best known for its pineapple plantation history and private vacation homes, a shelf of Halloween pumpkins began to "grow" under the capable hands of a quiet Filipina student with a passion for pottery.

The emerging pumpkins all started when Jocelyn Taal, a novice artist with a developmental disability in her senior year at the island‘s only high school, met in an empty classroom after school with a small group of supportive teachers and special-education advocates. The 17-year-old Taal spoke up for herself, telling the circle of adults that "pottery is the only thing in the world that motivates me.

"It‘s the only thing I care about and want to do in my life," she said.

Taal has always struggled in the classroom, and was teetering on the edge of becoming another dropout statistic when school psychologist Dr. Sharie Liden recommended that the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team look ahead to how Taal could successfully transition from school to a creative career as an artisan.

Taal‘s circle of supporters decided that she had everything to gain if they got behind the young potter. Her teachers jumped on board, and a new IEP was written last September.

Shortly afterwards, 50 pounds of clay was forwarded to her from the Lanaʻi Art Center program, and orange and black glaze was ordered and on its way. By the first week of October, she had already made 50 pumpkins, with 50 more to glaze and fire by the end of October. At that time, Taal Pottery will unveil its first-ever Halloween pumpkins at a useable arts and crafts fair in Honolulu at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Tower.

Her twin sister, Jessalyn, the other part of the Taal micro-enterprise, will accompany Jocelyn to Honolulu for the Third Annual Self-Determination Conference, "Making It On Our Own," sponsored by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health‘s Developmental Disabilities Division in collaboration with government and community partners and the University of Hawaiʻi.

The Taal twins, chaperoned by teachers Carla Reader and Christina Ehret, will be in good creative company with their pumpkin booth as about two dozen other artists with developmental disabilities statewide with emerging micro-enterprises will also be displaying their works.

"It‘s been fun because everyone is starting to understand how real this can be for Jocelyn‘s future success and the futures of others with developmental disabilities," Liden said.

"Her math teacher helped her write out her ʻ100 Pumpkin Business Plan.‘ Together, they came up with an inventory list and receipts. Her English teacher helped her write her Artist‘s Profile, and another teacher is helping her design her business card," Liden added.

For more information, visit: