Pac Rim 2023

Strand Information

This year we have six strands, Built Environment: Digital, Physical and Social; Deaf Innovations; Education; Employment First, Employment for All; Family, School, and Community Engagement; Healthy Bodies and Minds: Access to All. Each strand will focus on best practices, advocacy, research and capacity building. Submissions will reflect the conference values of honoring a strength based approach, enhancing our understanding of intersectionality, and centering disability as a part of the universal human experience. In particular we encourage submissions focusing on indigenous knowledge and the lived experience.

01. Built Environment: Digital, Physical and Social


Built Environments can give people a sense of belonging and the ability to thrive as a culturally-inclusive society. This strand will offer a platform to learn, engage and grow from ideas around digital environments, physical infrastructure, and social inclusion. Featured topics include: Building and Housing, Climate Resilience and Disasters, Digital Accessibility; and Transportation. We welcome stories, insights and blueprints for collaboration across diverse sectors and generations aimed at creating a more equitable world.

Featured Topics:

  • Building and Housing: Affordable and accessible housing, built infrastructures and landscapes, spatial designs, accessible urban and rural approaches, and social inclusion. 
  • Climate Resilience and Disasters: Sustainable solutions and strategies on climate change, urban environments and marginalized peoples, climate justice and human rights, strategic approaches and mitigation tools to use before, during, and after a disaster, and collaborations that Build a Culture of Preparedness.
  • Digital Accessibility: Accessible communication and information technologies, and individual’s independence and quality of life.
  • Transportation: Inclusive transportation, public transit and telecommuting to improve access to work and social activities for people with disabilities.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do we amplify disability- and diversity-voices in the transformation of our built environments?
  • How do we come together and move forward with ideas bridging academia, research, and practice?

Leong, Genesis, M.K., Strand Chair

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Center on Disability Studies

Genesis Leong is an Urban and Regional Planning, and Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance graduate student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her research interests are on disability data focused on capacity building, intersectionality of disability & disaster studies, climate resilience, and transportation. In addition, she is the public information specialist at the Center on Disability Studies and has 16+ years of experience in planning large scale events and digital marketing efforts focused on creating spaces for data in disability and diverse issues to be shared.

Bartoldus, Daintry, Strand Chair

Hawaiʻi State Council on Developmental Disabilities

Daintry Bartoldus is the executive administrator of the Hawaiʻi State Council on Developmental Disabilities, an agency that provides advocacy, capacity building, and systems change activities on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities. Daintry started with the Council in 2012 as their Community and Legislative Liaison, moving into the Executive Administrator position in 2018. Daintry’s first introduction to working with individuals with developmental disabilities started in 1989, working for The Arc in Hawaiʻi, which played a key role in the closure of the state institution for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

02. Deaf Innovations


In partnership with Deaf In Government (DIG), the Deaf Innovations topic area for the 2023 Pacific Rim Conference will concentrate on interests and issues, of and for, the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind communities in both the public and private sector. Recognizing the diversity of these communities, this gathering is an opportunity for community members, allies, service providers, educators, researchers, and other stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds to come together to share strategies, experiences, research, and pedagogical practices pursuing equity and inclusion. We invite topics on advocacy, communication access, education, employment and entrepreneurship, language and culture, independent living, legal rights and issues, interpreting, inclusion and intersectionality, and family support.

Thematic Issues

  • Policy and Legislation
  • Qualified Service Professionals/Providers
  • Workplace barriers and overcoming them
  • Advancement in the Work
  • Resources (e.g., interpreters, technological services, therapies etc.)
  • Social Concerns (e.g., life experiences, self-esteem, confidence, self-acceptance, self-advocacy, peer interaction, mentors, and role models)
  • Collaboration between all stakeholders (e.g., medical vs. cultural perspective)
  • Family Support and Involvement
  • Lack of Understanding/Knowledge (from outside and inside deaf communities)
  • Access to Communication and Language Modalities
  • Access to Technology
  • Literacy

Tarnay, Jennifer, Strand Chair

Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Ms. Jennifer Tarnay is a Native Hawaiian speech-language pathologist who is both state licensed and nationally certified. Additionally, she is a certified American Sign Language/English interpreter. Jennifer works at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, Center on Disability Studies and has over 17 years of experience working with infants, children and young adults with speech difficulties and differences, communication impairments, deafness, deafblindness, autism spectrum disorders, severe multiple impairments, traumatic brain injuries and age-associated disabilities such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and stroke. Since 2008, Jennifer has traveled across the Pacific Basin (American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia) providing direct services, conducting workshops, and providing technical assistance, consultation and training.

Leang, Cham, Strand Advisor

Deaf in Government (DIG), DIG President

Mr. Cham Leang is a Senior Program Manager (PM) with the federal government who manages multiple engineering projects. He is currently President and leading the “Deaf In Government (DIG)” Organization to serve all local, state, and federal level. He is Deaf and has a passion for enhancing innovation in accessibility space for all.

Rapozo, Florence, Strand Chair

Deaf in Government (DIG), Special Program Director

Ms. Florence G. Rapozo is an Education Technician, College of Security Studies (CSS) Operations at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS). Ms. Rapozo has been appointed as Special Program Director for the Deaf in Government this year. She has done an amazing job managing the government’s track and also assisted some of the other 80 workshops at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Conference. She is in charge of organizing and managing the two big upcoming conferences (Hawaii, March 2023 and Washington, D.C. 2023) with a mission to provide a full accessibility, employment, education, leadership development, professional training, and innovations that develop the needs of the public sector’s deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing communities.

Ewan, Darlene, Strand Chair

Deaf in Government (DIG), DIG Board Member at Large

Biography coming soon!

03. Education


The landscape of education has transformed out of necessity to rethink and reimagine what education means and how it is delivered, especially for vulnerable and marginalized populations. While the past few years of the pandemic have proved challenging, they have brought about reflection and innovation in education for students of diverse needs. We welcome proposals that reinvigorate our need to discover and create more equitable and accessible systems, pedagogies, practices, policies and services for students with disabilities from early childhood through postsecondary education. Topics of interest include creating inclusive preK-12 and higher education through international models of education and indigenous culturally responsive pedagogy; and transition planning, instruction, programs and support services.

Guiding Questions:

  • What culturally responsive and/or vital high-leverage practices can assist educators in navigating curriculum planning and instruction for inclusive prek-12 classrooms and higher education courses?
  • How can key team players from secondary and postsecondary come together to support and strengthen transition services for individuals with disabilities?

Mānoa, Jerica, Strand Chair

Center on Disability Studies, College of Education
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Jerica has over 10 years experience working with K-12 students, addressing a range of academic skills including math, reading, writing, communication and social skills. She has worked on and developed student, parent, teacher, and mentor programs and curricula for six federally funded research projects for K-12 students (as well as their parents, teachers, and community members) of diverse cultural backgrounds, but specifically intended for Native Hawaiian, Pacific Island, and other indigenous students, including students with disabilities, struggling learners, English language learners, and gifted students, which focused on bridging culturally responsive teaching and mentoring with STEM education in school and at home.

Denninghoff, Juanita, Strand Chair

Brigham Young University – Hawaiʻi

Dr. Denninghoff is an assistant professor at BYUH, where she teaches courses in literacy, culturally responsive teaching, and special education. In addition to teaching, Dr. Denninghoff serves as the field supervisor for elementary teacher candidates. Before higher education, she worked as a school teacher in clinical and non-clinical positions across elementary and secondary settings. Her research interests are in Early literacy, culturally responsive instruction, multicultural education, critical pedagogy, and young multilingual learners with disabilities.

Rice, Robyn, Strand Chair

University of Hawaiʻi and Maricopa Unified School District

Dr. Rice has been in education for 21 years. She has taught math and science in K-12 traditional and blended learning classrooms and at the post-secondary level. She currently serves as a Technology Integration Specialist. The focus of her research is increasing inclusion through authentic social learning and technology integration. She has been studying the use of authentic social learning to aid in COVID-recovery in K-12 education.

04. Employment First, Employment for All


Employment gives individuals a sense of self worth, better economic self-sufficiency, a chance to utilize their skills, and the ability to engage in their community. This also applies to persons with disabilities and their quality of life. A lot of progress has been made to assist individuals with disabilities to obtain, maintain and retain employment. A lot of work is still being done to provide support including new policies, program implementations, coaching, education, and training. The employment strand will look to provide insight, innovation, and diverse approaches to providing support to individuals with disabilities in their journey towards employment. Topics will include Work Incentives, Transition to Employment, Equity through Diversity and Inclusion in the Workforce, Policy change, and Training Programs. We are seeking proposals that reflect these topics and the impact of employability for persons with disabilities.

Featured Topics

  • Employment First Policy as Systemic Approach in Creating a Reality of Meaningful Work for All People with Disabilities
  • Equity through Diversity and Inclusion in the Workforce
  • Work Incentives and Strategies on Managing Benefits while Returning to Work
  • Transitioning from High School to Further Education and the Workforce
  • Assistive Technology as Tools for Bridging the Gaps in Employment
  • Professional Development, Trainings and Services

Guiding Questions:

  • What policies or strategies are working in employment preparation, maintenance, and retention for persons with disabilities in the workforce?
  • What are some examples of equity, diversity, and inclusion for persons with disabilities in the workforce?
  • What supports are available to educate persons with disabilities about work incentives and navigation of services?

Galeai, Jared, Strand Chair

Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Secretary, APSE Hawaii

Jared Galeai is a Junior Specialist at the University of Hawaii, Center on Disability Studies. He works as the Principal Investigator with the DVR Transition Education & Benefits Planning Project and the Work Incentives Planning & Assistance Project. He completed his MEd in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He worked as a Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in the State of California working with College and High school students. He is a Community Work Incentives Coordinator. His interests are working with individuals with disabilities to achieve work goals and live independently.

Gartside, Patrick, Strand Chair

Work Now Hawaiʻi
President, APSE Hawaii

Patrick Gartside is the Founding Executive Director of Work Now Hawaii, a workforce development agency helping people with disabilities find independence through employment.  As a Certified Employment Support Professional, he is committed to ethical standards and holds competencies in providing a variety of employment support services to people in their career paths.  Patrick also provides benefits advisement as a Certified Work Incentives Practitioner, helping individuals navigate government support through their returning to work.  His interests are in systemic change in initiatives like Employment First, entrepreneurship, and leadership development.

Nichols, Meriah, Strand Chair

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo

Meriah Nichols has worked in the field of International Human Resource Development and Training and in Career Development for nearly three decades, most recently entering the field of mental health counseling. Raised in the Pacific and Asia with her own disabilities, she is particularly drawn to the intersections of disability, career, and wellness and the effects of culture and media on disability and employment. Meriah is the mother to 3 children, one on the Autism spectrum and one with Down syndrome. She is also a plant nerd, film buff and runs the award-winning blog, Unpacking Disability with Meriah Nichols ( in her spare time.

Oshiro, Sandee, Strand Chair

Hawaiʻi Young Adults In Transition, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Pacific Housing Assistance Corp.

Sandee Oshiro is a parent of a young adult on the autism spectrum. She coordinates the Hawaiʻi Young Adults in Transition, a support group for families with adults on the spectrum. She is a University of Hawaiʻi Center on Disability Studies Community Advisory Council member and a director of the Pacific Housing Assistance Corp. She is pursuing a doctorate degree in learning design and technology at the University of Hawaiʻi and is a freelance journalist.

05. Family, School, and Community Engagement


Engaging with families as partners for guiding their children’s learning and development continues to be important for student success. This holds true from preschool through graduation. In this strand we hope to reflect on what we have learned, what works and directions for future research and practice. We are seeking sessions that address family engagement impacting the following: students’ sense of belonging in schools, attendance in school, mental health, learning, the Special Education process, or other topics salient to the current landscape of education.

Partnerships with families based on mutual trust, equity and shared responsibility have proven their worth but there is still more we need to do to support the most vulnerable groups in our schools and communities. The challenges of the last year, including social isolation, and widespread use of online and distance learning technology, have brought change as well as new opportunities to the learning environment. This strand of the conference welcomes presentations that support and strengthen the three spheres of influence that contribute to student success: Family, School, and Community. Sessions should have clear grounding in research, center families as important partners, and connect to positive outcomes for students preK – 12.

Guiding Questions:

  • What are strategies for increasing accessibility and equity for families to support student learning goals including social emotional learning? Consider culture, language, socioeconomic and other factors that increase accessibility and equity.
  • Where are strategies enacted, implemented, or applied? Consider strategies that are school-based, home-based and/or community-based.
  • How are families a part of decision making or design of family engagement strategies?
  • What are approaches to shifting beliefs and practices school-wide for understanding, valuing, and supporting the engagement of each student’s family?

Chinn, Chuan, Strand Chair

Hawaiʻi Statewide Family Engagement Center, Center on Disability Studies
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Chuan Chinn, Ph.D. is an Associate Specialist with the Center on Disability Studies. She is the Principal Investigator and Director of the Hawaii Statewide Family Engagement Center (HFEC). HFEC is a federally funded project aimed to build effective home-school partnerships to support student and school improvement through training, technical assistance, and resource development. In addition, she monitored the implementation and evaluated the effects of over ten federally funded projects and state contracts using evidence-based strategies to support a wide range of disadvantaged groups of students and adults to gain better education, employment, and healthcare opportunities.

VonHaden, Morgan, Strand Chair

Black Hills Special Services Cooperative
South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center

Morgan VonHaden is the Project Director of the South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center.  She holds a Masters of Science in Strategic Leadership, graduated from Leadership SD 2016 and from Leadership Rapid City 2010, and has worked extensively with non-profit agencies for the past 20 years, specifically in high poverty/high needs areas.

Boone, Barbara, Strand Chair

The Ohio State University, Center on Education & Training for Employment
Ohio Statewide Family Engagement Center

Barbara Boone, Ph.D., is the Principal Investigator and Director of the federally funded Ohio Statewide Family Engagement Center. Barbara leads a team conducting family engagement initiatives creating professional development, tools, and processes for families, school personnel, and organizations. Over her career Barbara has enjoyed helping thousands of families and educational professionals grow, and her own family of five, and local schools too.

06. Healthy Bodies & Minds: Access for All


Achieving a wellness lifestyle involves a holistic approach encompassing spirit, mind, and body. Components of a wellness lifestyle can include: social connections; physical activity; nutrition, and mental health. People engage in a wellness lifestyle because they like the way it makes them feel, it helps prevent chronic illnesses, and they enjoy the social connections. Those who are disabled face greater barriers to accessing and engaging in physical activity, and this inequality is found across the lifespan and for all disability populations. Closely related, and sharing similar disparities and access issues, health access and wellness are also tied to poorer outcomes. Though these topics are interrelated, they each have their own barriers, facilitators and can improve the lives of those who are disabled in a unique way. This strand provides opportunities for presenters to come together and move forward together by sharing knowledge in the following three areas: physical activity across the lifespan, mental health, and well-being.

Guiding Questions:

  • What barriers and facilitators exist for engaging in and promoting improved health and well-being in the disability space?
  • How can we collectively work to improve health, physical activity, and well-being for all populations?
  • How are important issues around disability and health being creatively addressed?
  • How are we collectively working to improve mental health outcomes for those who are disabled?

Murphy, Kelle L., Strand Chair

Center on Disability Studies

Dr. Kelle Murphy expertise is in adapted physical education and physical education. She has been running Swim Safe: ASD, a swim program for individuals with ASD for the last 4 years on Oʻahu. Her research interests are in the areas of autism and swimming and risk management.

Blagrave, A. Josephine, Strand Chair

Dept of Kinesiology, California State University, Chico

Josephine is the Director of the Autism Clinic at Chico State. Dr. Blagrave’s research focuses on health and activity experiences of autistic individuals and their families as well as improving supports for neurodiverse individuals in higher education. Dr. Blagrave is also the mother of two adopted autisitc twins.