2019 TASH Conference Highlights

The 2019 TASH Conference banner. A stylized illustration of a grove of cacti. The tall saguaros are green. The low prickly pear cacti are shades of purple. The text says that the conference is in Phoenix, Arizona, December 5th through 7th.


The 2019 TASH Conference, held on December 5–7, 2019, was at a spectacular location — the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona. Located on Gila River Indian Community (Official Site | Wikipedia article) land, the shared home of the Akimel O’otham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) tribes, the location was a perfect contribution to this year’s Conference theme of Building Diverse and Inclusive Communities.

Opening General Session

After the Thursday Workshops and Thursday Employment Track, the Conference proper got under way with Friday’s opening General Session. Rosie Rivera, the Cultural Manager with the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, gave a short talk on the history of the Gila River Indian Community and their century-long struggle to recover their water rights. The two events that really left attendees talking for the rest of the Conference were Raymond Guron’s talk, “Finding Purpose Through Struggle: My Personal Experience as an At-Risk Student and How I Build Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom” and the performance of Native hoop dancer Brian Hammill of Native Spirit Productions, with his brother, Palmer Lomakema, singing and playing the drum.

Photograph of Raymond Guron. He has a black, spiky pompadour and glasses. He is wearing a white shirt, tie and khaki pants. He is standing at a podium with a microphone.
Raymond Guron delivers his opening keynote,”Finding Purpose Through Struggle: My Personal Experience as an At-Risk Student and How I Build Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom”
A photograph of Brian Hammill in a colorful tribal outfit holding the climactic pose of his dance: in a squat with one hand on one knee and holding one of his hoops straight out at eye level. A photograph of the drummer for Native Spirit Productions. He is gesturing with his hand up to emphasize a point as he speaks into a microphone. He is wearing a turquoise native american outfit and holding a hand drum at his side.
Native hoop dancer Brian Hammill of Native Spirit Productions, with his brother, Palmer Lomakema, singing and playing the drum.

Film Festival

This year TASH presented its Positive Images in the Media Award to the film The Peanut Butter Falcon. Instead of showing a medley of trailers, short films and excerpts, this year we opted to show The Peanut Butter Falcon in its entirety.

The Peanut Butter Falcon poster: an image of three people on a makeshift raft with a sheet for a sail, drifting on flat water.

Prior to the screening, we showed an interview that TASH’s Tia Nelis conducted with Zack Gottsagen, one of the stars of The Peanut Butter Falcon, and an actor with Down syndrome. Zack was also present at the Membership Luncheon to accept the Positive Images in the Media Award (see below).

Breakout Sessions

One of the hallmarks of TASH is the diversity of our community and their perspectives and approaches. This is on full display at our annual get-together. Sessions are researh-based and experience-based; theoretical and practical; lecture and interactive; listening and participating; data-driven and story-driven; funny and serious; emerging leaders and seasoned pros; long-standing TASH favorites and new-comers. The photographs below demonstrate some of the variety you get at TASH.

A photograph of a mother place-holding  on a page of text while her daughter reads her presentation into a microphone in her hand. A photograph of a group presentation. One person in a bowtie stands behind a podium watching as a man in a windbreaker gestures while talking.
A photograph of a couple of members of D.C. ProjectACTION! at the front of the room. One standing making a decisive chopping gesture. A man in a wheelchair in front of a projector screen with audience members also in chairs of various types listening.
A photograph of a large group of people sitting in a circle in a conference room. A photograph of a large crowd of people in stadium seating as a presenter gestures dramatically at the front of the room.
A photograph of a man seated in a power chair with a flat cap on looking at a projector screen as he talks. A woman gesturing towards a panel of data plots projected on a screen.


And it’s not just the planned events at the Conference: it’s the meetings that occur spontaneously. This group, coming together in the hallway, is ready to give public transit what-for over the myriad ways it fails people with disabilities.

A photograph of a group of seven people in a tight circle, some standing, some in wheelchairs, some listening intently, some gesturing excitedly.

The Exhibits

This year’s Exhibit Hall included 29 exhibitors, which included micro-enterprises, technology and equipment makers, publishers and organizations. You can see the complete list of exhibitors here.

A photograph of Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift at a table signing books. A photograph of the pseudonymous author Ethan Sarem holding up his book, The Home of Homo Differentia
A photograph of the exhibit table of Be Cool Stone Creations.
Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift signing their book, Being Realistic Isn’t Realistic; the pseudonymous author Ethan Sarem and his series of utopian novels; Rob’s Be Cool Stone Creations.

Poster Presentations

One of the great successes of the TASH Conference in recent years is the amount of enthusiasm the Poster Presentations have generated. They draw huge attendance, and not just for the food: people pick up snacks and a drink, then circulate to all the presenters, eager to discuss the ideas on display!

A photograph of the Poster Presentation hall. Two people discuss a poster in the foreground; in the background is a full, busy room of posters.

A photograph of Will Fried and Jake Goodman discussing their poster to an attendee.

This year we are particularly gratified that one of the three winning posters was by two former TASH interns, Jake Goodman and Will Fried (we swear, all our judges are impartial!).

The three poster presentation award winners were the following:

#2019TASHBash Dance

A highly stylized photograph: in the foreground two well-lit dancers lean towards each other and point at one another; in the background, two people obscured in the dark dance.

Membership Luncheon and Awards Ceremony

The Membership Luncheon and Awards Ceremony is our occasion to show our appreciation of our members and to hold up just a few of thier major accomplishments and long dedication. Here are the people we recognized this year.

A photograph of Dan Heldoorn and Scott Shepard accepting the Larry Brumond award. The stage is against a black curtain and Dan and Scott are both casually dressed.
A photograph of Andrea Ruppar receiving an award, flanked by Jenny Lengyel and Ruby Moore. A photograph of Samantha Gross-Toews rounding the corner of the awards stage with her plaque in hand. A photograph of Stephanie MacFarland and Azam Anet being jointly presented an award by Ruby Moore and Jenny Lengyel
A photograph of the Open Doors for Multicultural Families delegation accepting the Ralph Edwards Diversity and Social Impact Award for Ginger Kwan. A large, diverse group of people wearing casual and professional outfits and head-coverings from multiple cultures.
A photograph of Karen Lee receiving an award from Jenny Lengyel. A photograph of Chernet Weldeab accepting an award. A photograph of Ruby Moor looking on as Frank Laski addresses the audience from a podium.
A photograph of Zack Gottsagen accepting the Positive Images in the Media Award from Tia Nelis. Ruby Moore and Jenny Lengyel are also in the group.

The awardees, top to bottom, left to right are the following:

  • Scott Shepard and Dan Heldoorn — Larry J. Brumond Supportive Relationship Award
  • Andrea Rupper — Early Career Researcher Award
  • Samantha Gross-Toews — Alice H. Hayden Emerging Leader Award
  • Dr. Stephanie MacFarland and Mrs. Azam Anet — June Downing Breakthroughs in Inclusive Education Award
  • Ginger Kwan — Ralph Edwards Diversity and Social Impact Award (not present; award accepted by Open Doors for Multicultural Families delegation)
  • Karen Lee — Marc Gold Employment Award
  • Chernet Weldeab — Special Recognition Award
  • Frank Laski — Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Shirley Rodriguez — Barbara R. Trader Leadership Award (not present)
  • Zack Gottsagen — Positive Images in Media Award


This is our official reflection on the conference, but we’re not the only word. To see the experiences that attendees posted on social media check out the conference hashtag, #2019TASHconf on Facebook, Instagram or twitter.

Thanks to Everyone Who Made It Possible!

We work all year to bring our Conference together, but the TASH staff is small: we couldn’t have done it without the contributions of our Board of Directors, the Arizona TASH Chapter Local Host Committee, especially its two co-chairs, Andrea O’Brien and Cheryl Brown, and when the week of the event arrives, a spectacular group of volunteers. Thank you to everyone who made it possible! And a special thank you to our 2019 Sponsors and Exhibitors!

Save the Date: Baltimore in 2020

The Baltimore 2020 TASH Conference logo: an illustration of a crab with blue pinchers and legs sprouting from a purple version to the TASH Möbius strip.