[Federal Register: April 5, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 64)]
[Notices]               
[Page 16527-16532]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr05ap99-146]


[[Page 16527]]

_______________________________________________________________________

Part II

Department of Education
_______________________________________________________________________
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; Final
Funding Priorities for Fiscal Years 1999-2000 for Certain Centers; 
Inviting Applications for a New Rehabilitation Research and Training 
Center and New Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers for Fiscal 
Year 1999; Notices


[[Page 16528]]



DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; 
Notice of Final Funding Priorities for Fiscal Years 1999-2000 for 
Certain Centers

SUMMARY: The Secretary announces funding priorities for one 
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) and two 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) under the National 
Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) for fiscal 
years 1999-2000. The Secretary takes this action to focus research 
attention on areas of national need. These priorities are intended to 
improve rehabilitation services and outcomes for individuals with 
disabilities.

EFFECTIVE DATE: These priorities take effect on May 5, 1999.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donna Nangle. Telephone: (202) 205-
5880. Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD) may call the TDD number at (202) 205-9136. Internet: 
Donna__Nangle@ed.gov
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternate format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed in the preceding 
paragraph.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice contains final priorities under 
the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program 
for one RRTC related to rehabilitation of persons with traumatic brain 
injury (TBI) and two RERCs related to universal design and the built 
environment, and telecommunications access. The final priorities refer 
to NIDRR's proposed Long-Range Plan (LRP). The LRP can be accessed on 
the World Wide Web at: http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/
announcements/1998-4/102698a.html
    These final priorities support the National Education Goal that 
calls for every adult American to possess the skills necessary to 
compete in a global economy.
    The authority for the Secretary to establish research priorities by 
reserving funds to support particular research activities is contained 
in sections 202(g) and 204 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as 
amended (29 U.S.C. 762(g) and 764).

    Note: This notice of final priorities does not solicit 
applications. A notice inviting applications is published elsewhere 
in this issue of the Federal Register.

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    On January 15, 1999 the Secretary published a notice of proposed 
priorities in the Federal Register (64 FR 2730). The Department of 
Education received 13 letters commenting on the notice of proposed 
priority by the deadline date. Technical and other minor changes--and 
suggested changes the Secretary is not legally authorized to make under 
statutory authority--are not addressed.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers

Priority 1: Rehabilitation of Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury.

    Comment: Two commenters suggested that the RRTC should focus 
exclusively on persons with mild TBI. Three additional commenters 
suggested that the RRTC emphasize issues related to persons with mild 
TBI.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that the RRTC should be required to carry 
out additional research on the rehabilitation of persons with mild TBI. 
However, NIDRR declines to require the RRTC to focus exclusively on 
persons with mild TBI because it is important for the RRTC to have the 
additional discretion to pursue promising research related to persons 
with moderate and severe TBI.
    Changes: The second required activity has been revised to include 
an emphasis on persons with mild TBI, and the fourth required activity 
has been revised to include persons with mild TBI.
    Comment: The RRTC should address postacute rehabilitation and 
support trials of specific interventions at the inpatient stage of 
rehabilitation.
    Discussion: The priority is silent on the issue of the 
rehabilitation setting. Applicants have the discretion to propose to 
address the rehabilitation setting or settings. The peer review process 
will evaluate the merits of the proposals.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Because universal design can have a significant impact on 
the functioning of persons with TBI, the ``Introduction'' should 
include the discussion in NIDRR's proposed LRP Plan on the interaction 
between individuals and the environment.
    Discussion: There are numerous references to NIDRR's proposed LRP 
in NIDRR's FY 1999 priorities. For the sake of consistency and brevity, 
and in light of the fact that the LRP is easily accessible through the 
Internet, NIDRR prefers to include only references to the LRP in the 
priorities.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: The third required activity to develop and evaluate 
innovative interventions to assist families should be revised to 
include the requirement to utilize the physical and informational 
environments as a resource to enhance functional and social abilities.
    Discussion: An applicant could propose to fulfill the requirements 
of the third activity by utilizing the physical and informational 
environments as a resource to enhance functional and social abilities. 
The peer review process will evaluate the merits of the proposal. NIDRR 
has no basis to determine that all applicants should be required to 
utilize the physical and informational environments as a resource to 
enhance functional and social abilities.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: The RRTC should be required to coordinate with the 
proposed RERCs on Universal Design and the Built Environment and 
Telecommunications Access.
    Discussion: The RRTC is required to coordinate with entities 
carrying out related research or training activities including NIDRR's 
grantees on TBI. An applicant could propose to coordinate with the 
RERCs on Universal Design and the Built Environment and 
Telecommunications Access. NIDRR has no basis to determine that all 
applicants should be required to coordinate with the RERCs on Universal 
Design and the Built Environment and Telecommunications Access.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: The ``Introduction'' and the second required activity 
indicate that the RRTC will address all age groups. One commenter 
indicated that the target population of the RRTC is overly broad, and 
the four required research activities of the RRTC should focus 
exclusively on children and adolescents. A second commenter suggested 
that the priority should support separate geriatric and pediatric 
studies.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that requiring the RRTC to address all age 
groups is too broad a task. However, NIDRR believes that requiring the 
RRTC to focus exclusively on children and adolescents may result in the 
RRTC neglecting equally important adult issues that are not being 
addressed by other research initiatives. NIDRR prefers to provide 
applicants with the discretion to propose the age groups that the RRTC 
will address. If an applicant proposes to emphasize issues related to 
children and adolescents, the peer review process will evaluate the 
merits of this proposal.
    In regard to the comment on geriatric and pediatric studies, NIDRR 
prefers to provide applicants with the discretion to propose whether 
studies involving different age groups are conducted separately or 
jointly. The peer review process will evaluate the merits of the 
proposal. NIDRR has no basis to

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determine that all applicants should propose to carry out the studies 
separately.
    Changes: The ``Introduction'' and the second required activity have 
been revised to eliminate the requirement that the RRTC address all age 
groups. Applicants have the discretion to propose the age groups that 
the RRTC will address.
    Comment: Several projects of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 
address the epidemiology and needs of persons with mild TBI. The 
priority should be revised to eliminate the epidemiological studies in 
order to avoid duplication.
    Discussion: After consulting with officials from the CDC, NIDRR 
agrees that the requirement to carry out epidemiological studies would 
duplicate CDC research.
    Changes: The requirement to carry out epidemiological studies has 
been eliminated.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers

Priority 2: Universal Design and the Built Environment

    Comment: Is the objective of the second required activity to 
develop an anthropometric database to be used to develop new universal 
designs for toilet and bathing facilities, or to develop an 
anthropometric database and conduct research related to accessing 
toilet and bathing facilities?
    Discussion: The purpose of the second required activity is to 
develop an anthropometric database on the specific issue of access and 
use of toileting and bathing facilities, and in the process to develop 
a prototype anthropometric database that can be used as a model for 
future databases.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested that the target population for 
the fourth required activity should be broadened to include persons 
with disabilities.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees the RERC should serve as a national 
information resource for persons with disabilities.
    Changes: Persons with disabilities has been added to the target 
population of the fourth required activity.
    Comment: Two commenters expressed concern that the priority is too 
narrowly focused on physical access and does not address the needs of 
individuals with sensory disabilities. One of the commenters indicated 
that the RERC should expressly integrate acoustic and visually-based 
accommodations into its universal design efforts.
    Discussion: NIDRR expects the RERC to address the principles of 
universal design as they apply to all persons with disabilities, 
including those with sensory disabilities. The priority does not 
indicate that the RERC is focused exclusively on physical access. NIDRR 
prefers to provide applicants with the discretion to propose the extent 
to which the RERC will address the needs of persons with sensory 
disabilities. The peer review process will evaluate the merits of the 
proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Does the RERC have to develop all the technological 
solutions it evaluates under the first required activity, or can the 
RERC evaluate solutions that industry has already developed?
    Discussion: As long as the RERC engages in certain activities that 
include both development and evaluation, applicants have the discretion 
to propose to carry out additional evaluation activities.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Please clarify whether the prototype anthropometric 
database should include persons with cognitive disabilities.
    Discussion: The only requirement that is placed on the target 
population for the prototype anthropometric database is that it must 
include persons who use manual or powered wheelchairs. In addition to 
manual or powered wheelchair users, an applicant could propose to 
include persons with cognitive disabilities in the database. The peer 
review process will evaluate the merits of the proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: The RERC should be required to coordinate on activities of 
mutual interest with the RRTCs on TBI and other RRTCs dealing with 
cognitive disabilities to ensure more utilization of universal design 
in the built environment for these individuals.
    Discussion: There is a general requirement for the RERC to 
coordinate with other entities carrying out related research or 
training activities. An applicant could propose to coordinate with the 
RRTCs on Traumatic Brain Injury and other Centers dealing with 
cognitive disabilities. The peer review process will evaluate the 
merits of the proposal. NIDRR has no basis to determine that all 
applicants must coordinate with the RRTCs on Traumatic Brain Injury and 
other Centers dealing with cognitive disabilities.
    Changes: None.

Priority 3: Telecommunications Access

    Comment: The RERC should be required to address visual display 
access.
    Discussion: NIDRR's RERC on Hearing Enhancement is currently 
conducting research and development in this area. However, an applicant 
could propose to address visual display access. The peer review process 
will evaluate the merits of the proposal. NIDRR has no basis to 
determine that all applicants should be required to propose research on 
visual display access.
    Changes: None.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers

    Authority for the RRTC program of NIDRR is contained in section 
204(b)(2) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. 
764(b)(2)). Under this program the Secretary makes awards to public and 
private organizations, including institutions of higher education and 
Indian tribes or tribal organizations for coordinated research and 
training activities. These entities must be of sufficient size, scope, 
and quality to effectively carry out the activities of the Center in an 
efficient manner consistent with appropriate State and Federal laws. 
They must demonstrate the ability to carry out the training activities 
either directly or through another entity that can provide that 
training.
    The Secretary may make awards for up to 60 months through grants or 
cooperative agreements. The purpose of the awards is for planning and 
conducting research, training, demonstrations, and related activities 
leading to the development of methods, procedures, and devices that 
will benefit individuals with disabilities, especially those with the 
most severe disabilities.

Description of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers

    RRTCs are operated in collaboration with institutions of higher 
education or providers of rehabilitation services or other appropriate 
services. RRTCs serve as centers of national excellence and national or 
regional resources for providers and individuals with disabilities and 
the parents, family members, guardians, advocates or authorized 
representatives of the individuals.
    RRTCs conduct coordinated, integrated, and advanced programs of 
research in rehabilitation targeted toward the production of new 
knowledge to improve rehabilitation methodology and service delivery 
systems, to alleviate or stabilize disabling conditions, and to promote 
maximum social and economic independence of individuals with 
disabilities.

[[Page 16530]]

    RRTCs provide training, including graduate, pre-service, and in-
service training, to assist individuals to more effectively provide 
rehabilitation services. They also provide training including graduate, 
pre-service, and in-service training, for rehabilitation research 
personnel and other rehabilitation personnel.
    RRTCs serve as informational and technical assistance resources to 
providers, individuals with disabilities, and the parents, family 
members, guardians, advocates, or authorized representatives of these 
individuals through conferences, workshops, public education programs, 
in-service training programs and similar activities.
    RRTCs disseminate materials in alternate formats to ensure that 
they are accessible to individuals with a range of disabling 
conditions.
    NIDRR encourages all Centers to involve individuals with 
disabilities and individuals from minority backgrounds as recipients of 
research training, as well as clinical training.
    The Department is particularly interested in ensuring that the 
expenditure of public funds is justified by the execution of intended 
activities and the advancement of knowledge and, thus, has built this 
accountability into the selection criteria. Not later than three years 
after the establishment of any RRTC, NIDRR will conduct one or more 
reviews of the activities and achievements of the Center. In accordance 
with the provisions of 34 CFR 75.253(a), continued funding depends at 
all times on satisfactory performance and accomplishment.

Priorities

    Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3) the Secretary gives an absolute 
preference to applications that meet the following priority. The 
Secretary will fund under this competition only applications that meet 
this absolute priority.

Priority 1: Rehabilitation of Persons With Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Introduction
    Chapter Four of NIDRR's proposed Long-Range Plan (63 FR 57204) 
addresses research on trauma rehabilitation, including brain injury. A 
1998 draft National Institute of Health's Consensus Development 
Conference Statement on Rehabilitation of Persons with TBI identifies 
emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and physical symptoms of TBI that 
affect the individuals with TBI, family, friends, community, and 
society. The report raises important research issues related to 
children, the elderly, and persons who experience mild TBI symptoms.
    This RRTC will emphasize, but not be limited to, the rehabilitation 
needs of persons with mild TBI. For the purpose of this priority, mild 
TBI is defined using the definition developed in 1991 by the Mild TBI 
Committee of the Head Injury Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group 
of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine definition (see 
Esselman, P. and Uomoto, J., ``Classification of the Spectrum of Mild 
Traumatic Brain Injury,'' Brain Injury, Vol. 9, No. 4, pgs. 417-424, 
1995).
    NIDRR has a long history of support for research on TBI that has 
focused primarily on adults with moderate and severe injuries. This 
RRTC may address the needs of all, or selected, age groups including 
children and the elderly.
Priority
    The Secretary will establish an RRTC for the purpose of developing 
interventions to improve the functional abilities and promote the 
independence of persons with TBI. The RRTC must:
    (1) Develop and evaluate methodologies to assess the long term 
consequences of mild TBI and identify interventions for rehabilitation;
    (2) Develop and evaluate innovative methods of diagnosis and 
treatment of the medical, psychological, and neurobehavioral sequelae 
of TBI with an emphasis on persons with mild TBI;
    (3) Develop and evaluate innovative interventions to assist 
families;
    (4) Develop and test prognostic indicators of rehabilitation 
outcomes including early predictors of functional outcomes for persons 
with TBI including those with mild TBI;
    (5) Provide training on research methodology and applied research 
experience, and training on knowledge gained from the Center's research 
activities to persons with disabilities and their families, service 
providers, and other appropriate parties;
    (6) Develop and disseminate informational materials based on 
knowledge gained from the Center's research activities, and disseminate 
the materials to persons with disabilities, their representatives, 
service providers, and other interested parties;
    (7) Involve individuals with disabilities and, if appropriate, 
their representatives, in planning and implementing its research, 
training, and dissemination activities, and in evaluating the Center;
    (8) Conduct a state-of-the-science conference and publish a 
comprehensive report on the final outcomes of the conference. The 
report must be published in the fourth year of the grant; and
    (9) Coordinate with other entities carrying out related research or 
training activities including NIDRR's grantees on TBI.
Description of Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers
    RERCs carry out research or demonstration activities by:
    (a) Developing and disseminating innovative methods of applying 
advanced technology, scientific achievement, and psychological and 
social knowledge to (1) solve rehabilitation problems and remove 
environmental barriers, and (2) study new or emerging technologies, 
products, or environments;
    (b) Demonstrating and disseminating (1) innovative models for the 
delivery of cost-effective rehabilitation technology services to rural 
and urban areas, and (2) other scientific research to assist in meeting 
the employment and independent living needs of individuals with severe 
disabilities; or
    (c) Facilitating service delivery systems change through (1) the 
development, evaluation, and dissemination of consumer-responsive and 
individual and family-centered innovative models for the delivery to 
both rural and urban areas of innovative cost-effective rehabilitation 
technology services, and (2) other scientific research to assist in 
meeting the employment and independent needs of individuals with severe 
disabilities.
    Each RERC must provide training opportunities to individuals, 
including individuals with disabilities, to become researchers of 
rehabilitation technology and practitioners of rehabilitation 
technology in conjunction with institutions of higher education and 
nonprofit organizations.
    The Department is particularly interested in ensuring that the 
expenditure of public funds is justified by the execution of intended 
activities and the advancement of knowledge and, thus, has built this 
accountability into the selection criteria. Not later than three years 
after the establishment of any RERC, NIDRR will conduct one or more 
reviews of the activities and achievements of the Center. In accordance 
with the provisions of 34 CFR 75.253(a), continued funding depends at 
all times on satisfactory performance and accomplishment.

General RERC Requirements

    The following requirements apply to these RERCs pursuant to these 
absolute priorities unless noted otherwise. An applicant's proposal to 
fulfill these requirements will be assessed using

[[Page 16531]]

applicable selection criteria in the peer review process.
    The RERC must have the capability to design, build, and test 
prototype devices and assist in the transfer of successful solutions to 
relevant production and service delivery settings. The RERC must 
evaluate the efficacy and safety of its new products, instrumentation, 
or assistive devices.
    The RERC must disseminate research results and other knowledge 
gained from the Center's research and development activities to persons 
with disabilities, their representatives, disability organizations, 
businesses, manufacturers, professional journals, service providers, 
and other interested parties.
    The RERC must develop and carry out utilization activities to 
successfully transfer all new and improved technologies developed by 
the RERC to the marketplace.
    The RERC must involve individuals with disabilities and, if 
appropriate, their representatives, in planning and implementing its 
research, development, training, and dissemination activities, and in 
evaluating the Center.
    The RERC must conduct a state-of-the-science conference and publish 
a comprehensive report on the final outcomes of the conference. The 
report must be published in the fourth year of the grant.
    The RERC must coordinate with other entities carrying out related 
research or training activities.

Priorities

    Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3) the Secretary gives an absolute 
preference to applications that meet the following priorities. The 
Secretary will fund under this competition only applications that meet 
one of these absolute priorities.

Priority 2: Universal Design and the Built Environment Introduction

    Chapter 5 of NIDRR's proposed Long-Range Plan (63 FR 57207) 
discusses the importance of improving access to the built environment 
through universal design. Universal design is a process whereby 
environments and products are designed with built-in flexibility so 
they are usable by all people, regardless of age and ability, at no 
additional cost to the user. For the purpose of this priority, the 
built environment includes public and private buildings, houses, 
landscapes, and tools and objects of daily use (e.g., door openers, 
environmental control systems, and appliances).
    In order to create environments that are universal in nature, it is 
necessary to have a database of physical measurements of the human body 
(i.e., anthropometric data) that includes persons with disabilities. 
There is a need for more anthropometric data on persons with 
disabilities. A 1996 report from the U.S. Architectural and 
Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) concluded that 
research was needed regarding how people with disabilities access 
toilet and bathing facilities. NIDRR expects this RERC to develop a 
prototype anthropometric database that can be used to create 
universally designed toileting facilities and adapted for the 
development of other anthropometric databases for persons with 
disabilities.
Priority
    The Secretary will establish an RERC on universal design and the 
built environment to advance the field of universal design and improve 
the accessibility of the built environment. The RERC must:
    (1) Develop and evaluate universally designed plans and products 
for the built environment;
    (2) Develop a prototype anthropometric database, both static and 
dynamic, of persons with disabilities, including those who use manual 
or powered wheelchairs, to access and use toilet and bathing 
facilities;
    (3) Identify, develop and evaluate strategies for promoting 
adoption of universal design in the building and product manufacturing 
industries, and design and architecture curricula; and
    (4) Serve as a national information resource on universal design 
standards, plans, building products, funding sources, and performance 
evaluations for persons with disabilities, designers, builders and 
manufacturers.
    In carrying out these purposes, the RERC must coordinate on 
activities of mutual interest with the RERCs on Telecommunications 
Access and Information Technologies Access, and the Access Board.

Priority 3: Telecommunications Access

Introduction
    Chapter 5 of NIDRR's proposed Long-Range Plan (63 FR 57207) 
discusses the importance of telecommunications accessibility and the 
need for continued research and development. For the purpose of this 
priority, telecommunications systems and products include, but are not 
limited to, wireless communication technologies, networks, multimedia 
conferencing systems, and software supporting these technologies, 
products, and systems.
    The RERC on Telecommunications Access faces the challenge of 
promoting access to a highly dynamic field. In order to keep pace with 
developments in the field, NIDRR expects this RERC to undertake its 
research and development activities in close collaboration with private 
industry as well as with public entities that regulate the 
telecommunications industry. NIDRR expects this RERC to contribute to 
improving the employment status of persons with disabilities by 
providing employers with technical assistance and by providing persons 
with disabilities with information to make them better consumers.
Priority
    The Secretary will establish an RERC on telecommunications access 
for the purpose of developing technological solutions and promoting 
access for persons with disabilities to current and emerging 
telecommunications systems and products. The RERC must:
    (1) Develop and evaluate in collaboration with industry 
technological solutions to promote accessibility and universal design 
at the outset of the development of telecommunications systems and 
products;
    (2) Develop and disseminate strategies for integrating current 
accessibility features into newer generations of telecommunications 
systems and products;
    (3) Provide technical assistance to public and private 
organizations responsible for developing policies, guidelines, and 
standards that affect the accessibility of telecommunications 
technology products and systems, including the Access Board and the 
Federal Communications Commission; and
    (4) Provide technical assistance and guidance to individuals with 
disabilities and employers on accessibility issues affecting current 
telecommunications systems and products.
    In carrying out these purposes, the RERC must coordinate on 
activities of mutual interest with the RERCs on Information Technology 
Access, Telerehabilitation, Hearing Enhancement, Blindness and Low 
Vision, and Universal Design and the Built Environment.

Electronic Access to This Document

    Anyone may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or 
portable document format (pdf) on the World Wide Web at either of the 
following sites: http://ocfo.ed.gov/fedreg.htm http://www.ed.gov/
news.html

[[Page 16532]]

    To use the pdf you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader Program with 
Search, which is available free at either of the preceding sites. If 
you have questions about using the pdf, call the U.S. Government 
Printing Office toll free at (202) 512-1530 or, toll free at 1-888-293-
6498.
    Anyone may also view these documents in text copy only on an 
electronic bulletin board of the Department. Telephone: (202) 219-1511 
or, toll free, 1-800-222-4922. The documents are located under Option 
G--Files/Announcements, Bulletins and Press Releases.
    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register.

    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR Part 350.
    (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 84.133B, 
Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers and 84.133E, 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers)

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 760-762.

    Dated: March 29, 1999.
Judith E. Heumann,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 99-8165 Filed 4-2-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-U