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Joy Smiley Zabala

Senior Technical Assistance Advisor
Photo of Joy Smiley 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 Senior Technical Assistance Advisor at CAST. She was previously the Co-Director of the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM Center; 2010-2017), 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, 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, a co-author of the Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology, and Education Program Chair for the international conference of the Assistive Technology Industry Association. She serves on the faculty of the Center on Technology and Disability, the editorial board of the Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits (ATOB) Journal, and the advisory board of the National Accessible Materials Access Center (NIMAC).

My Inspiration

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 over the past three decades.


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


National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM Center)
Center on Inclusive Technology & Education Systems (CITES)

Selected Publications

QIAT Leadership Team. (2015). Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing. See also

Bowser, G., & Zabala, J. (2012). AIM for digital equity. Learning & Leading with Technology 39(7), 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

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

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

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. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.ED381962. Houston, TX: Region IV Education Service Center. 

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. 

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