Joy Smiley Zabala


Director of Technical Assistance, CAST & National Center on Accessible Educational Materials

Photo of Joy Zabala

Joy Smiley Zabala is a leading expert on the use of assistive technology (AT) to improve education for people with disabilities. As a technologist, special educator, teacher trainer, and conference speaker, Dr. Zabala has earned international recognition for her work on AT and universal design for learning (UDL).

Dr. Zabala is currently Director of Technical Assistance both for CAST and for its federally funded National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM Center). She was previously the Director of Technical Assistance for the AIM Consortium (2007-2009) and the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials (2009-2014).

Dr. Zabala developed the SETT Framework. [Hyperlink: http://www.joyzabala.com]a model that is widely-used by families and educators for collaborative decision-making in all phases of assistive technology service design and delivery. She is also a founding member of the QIAT Community [http://www.qiat.org], a past-president of the Technology and Media Division (TAM) of the Council for Exceptional Children [hyperlink: http://www.tamcec.org/], and the Education Program Chair for the international conference of the Assistive Technology Industry Association[Hyperlink: http://atia.org]. She serves on the faculty of the Center on Technology and Disability [http://www.ctdinstitute.org/].



For several years I lived in a country where I could barely speak the language, During that time I became very aware that my inability to speak did not mean that I had nothing to say. This personal experience has strongly guided by professional interest in lowering communication,participation and productivity barriers for students with disabilities for the past three decades.


EdD, University of Kentucky
MEd, Florida Atlantic University
BA, University of Florida


National Center on Accessible Educational Materials

Selected Publications

Bowser, G., & Zabala, J. (2012). AIM for digital equity. Learning & Leading with Technology, 16-19.
Zabala, J. & Carl, D. (2010). What educators and families need to know about accessible instructional materials. Part one: Introduction and legal context. Retrieved from http://aim.cast.org/sites/aim.cast.org/files/ClosingtheGap1.pdf.
Zabala, J. Carl, D. (2010). What educators and families need to know about accessible instructional materials. Part three: Just in time: AIM support at your fingertips!. Retrieved from http://aim.cast.org/sites/">http://aim.cast.org/sites/aim.cast.org/files/ClosingtheGap3.pdf.
Zabala, J. & Carl, D. (2010). What educators and families need to know about accessible instructional materials. Part two: Navigating the decision-making process. Retrieved from http://aim.cast.org/sites/aim.cast.org/files/ClosingtheGap2.pdf.
Zabala, J. S. & Carl, D. F. (2005) Quality indicators for assistive technology. In. K. Higgins, R. Boone, & D. Edyburn (Eds.), The handbook of special education technology research and practice. Knowledge by Design, Inc.: Whitefish Bay, WI
Scott, T. M., Nelson, C. M., & Zabala, J. (2003). Functional behavior assessment training in public schools: Facilitating systemic change. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 5(4), 216-224.

Zabala, J. S. (1995) The SETT framework: critical areas to consider when making informed assistive technology decisions. Houston, TX: Region IV Education Service Center. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.ED381962).

Zabala, J. S., Bowser, G., Blunt, M., Carl, D. F., Davis, S., Deterding, C. Foss, T., Korsten, J., Hamman, T., Hartsell, K., Marfilius, S. W., McCloskey-Dale, S., Nettleton, S. D., & Reed, P. (2001). Quality indicators for assistive technology services. Journal of Special Education Technology, 15 (4), 25-36.