Joy Zabala Spirit Award

The Joy Zabala Spirit Award is a recognition program, hosted by ATIA, celebrating Joy Zabala’s work in the field of assistive technology and education. Joy served as ATIA Conference Education Chair for many years and led the talented team of ATIA Strand Advisors, leaders and experts in their content areas in curating the conference education program and ensuring each education session meets the diverse needs of conference attendees.

The inaugural Joy Zabala Spirit Award is awarded to speakers at ATIA 2023 whose sessions have been selected as exemplifying the passion Joy brought to her work in AT and education. The sessions were selected by the Strand Advisors who worked with Joy on the conference education program over the past decades.

The 2023 Joy Zabala Spirit Award recipients are:

Jessica Gormley, Maryjan Fiala, and Brittany Steinfeld for AAC-41: Space for Everyone: Co-Designing AAC Trainings with Families & Providers

Lauren Enders and Shaun Pearson for AAC-48: Using Games to Foster Language Development, Connection, and Joy in AAC Learners

James Whitney for ATPAP-06: Assistive Technology to Combat Social Isolation

Carolyn Phillips and Ben Satterfield for EDU-03: A Model for Increasing Access to AT for Students with Disabilities

Maggie Pickett and Michelle Soriano for EDU-11: Engaging Families in Technology Planning & Use: A Symbiotic Endeavor

Judith Schoonover and Sally Norton-Darr for MWAT-06: EASY Does It: Revisiting LoTTIE Kits as Inclusive Learning Tools

Hali Strickler for TWA-08: Stories of AAC and Adulting: Practice and Personal Perspectives

Amber Skerry, Neha Sharma, Emily Macklin, and Ashley Leon for VHT-05: Foundational Communication: Individualizing Access for Deafblind Students


Joy Zabala Spirit Award Lunchtime Celebration: Thursday, February 2

Please join us to congratulate the Joy Zabala Spirit Award recipients on Thursday, February 2 at the ATIA 2023 conference in Orlando.  We will be celebrating the awardees at lunch time in the Exhibit Hall Product Demo Center area from 12:30 – 12:45 pm.


Honoring Joy ZabalaJoy Zabala

Dr. Joy Smiley Zabala was a special educator who worked with students, families, education agencies and others across the U.S. and abroad for more than 25 years to expand the use of assistive technology to increase the communication, participation, and productivity of people with disabilities. She was a strong supporter of Universal Design for Learning as the foundational support for the education of all students and of assistive technology and accessible materials and technologies as complementary supports for those students who require them for active participation and achievement in UDL environments. Joy was the ATIA Education Program Chair for many years, the developer of the SETT Framework, a former president of the Technology and Media division of CEC, a founder of QIAT, and the co-director of the Center on Inclusive Technology & Education Systems (CITES) at CAST.

Joy embodied all those things that make us better by having known her. Few professionals reach rock star prominence as Joy did and she did so humbly and graciously. Sharing her knowledge and deep commitment to building access for children with disabilities. Regardless of how and where you may have met her or heard her, we all knew Joy had important things to share.