Navigating the Cultural Landscape towards Self-Determination: Results of an Exploratory Study in American Samoa

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Denise L. Uehara
Tafa Tua-Tupuola


culture, self-determination, perceptions, research flexibility


The American Samoa University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Education, Research, and Service (AS-UCEDD) with the University of Hawaii Center on Disability Studies, conducted an exploratory study to better understand how state agencies deliver services, and how disability is perceived by agency staff and consumers in American Samoa. While it initially was envisioned as a needs-sensing study that used surveys and targeted database reviews to systematically capture client needs, the study transformed to a largely qualitative preliminary investigation that was dependent on personal interviews. Findings revealed how contextual, linguistic, and cultural factors play a hugely important role when researching western-based ideals and concepts within indigenous communities.

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