FR Doc 05-8101
[Federal Register: April 25, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 78)]
[Notices]               
[Page 21281-21284]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr25ap05-114]                         


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Part II





Department of Education





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National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research--
Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program--
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers; Overview Information; 
Notices


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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research--
Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program--
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers

AGENCY: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 
Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of final priorities (NFP).

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services announces three funding priorities for the 
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research's (NIDRR) 
Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program, 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERC) program. Each of 
these priorities may be used for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2005 
and later years. We take this action to focus research attention on 
areas of national need. We intend these priorities to improve 
rehabilitation services and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

EFFECTIVE DATE: These priorities are effective May 25, 2005.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donna Nangle. Telephone: (202) 245-
7462.
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may 
call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-877-8339.
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers Program

    We may make awards under this program for up to 60 months through 
grants or cooperative agreements to public and private agencies and 
organizations, including institutions of higher education, Indian 
tribes, and tribal organizations, to conduct research, demonstration, 
and training activities regarding rehabilitation technology in order to 
enhance opportunities for meeting the needs of, and addressing the 
barriers confronted by, individuals with disabilities in all aspects of 
their lives. Each RERC must be operated by or in collaboration with an 
institution of higher education or a nonprofit organization. Additional 
information on the RERC program can be found at: 
http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/index.html.


General Requirements of Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers

    RERCs shall carry out research or demonstration activities in 
support of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, by--
     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 and evaluate new or emerging 
technologies, products, or environments and their effectiveness and 
benefits; or
     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
     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 independence needs of individuals 
with severe disabilities.
    Each RERC must provide training opportunities, in conjunction with 
institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations, to assist 
individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to become 
rehabilitation technology researchers and practitioners.
    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. During the funding cycle of 
any RERC, NIDRR will conduct one or more reviews of the activities and 
achievements of the RERC. In accordance with the provisions of 34 CFR 
75.253(a), continued funding depends at all times on satisfactory 
performance and accomplishment.

Public Comment

    We published a notice of proposed priorities (NPP) for this program 
in the Federal Register on November 26, 2004 (69 FR 68890). The NPP 
included a background statement that described our rationale for 
proposing these priorities.
    In response to our invitation in the NPP, we received nine 
comments. An analysis of the comments is included as an appendix to 
this notice.
    Generally, we do not address technical and other minor changes and 
suggested changes we are not authorized to make under the applicable 
statutory authority. This NFP contains no changes from the NPP.


    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use one or more of these final priorities, we 
invite applications through a notice in the Federal Register. When 
inviting applications we designate each priority as absolute, 
competitive preference, or invitational. The effect of each type of 
priority follows:

    Absolute priority: Under an absolute priority, we consider only 
applications that meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(3)).
    Competitive preference priority: Under a competitive preference 
priority, we give competitive preference to an application by either 
(1) awarding additional points, depending on how well or the extent to 
which the application meets the competitive priority (34 CFR 
75.105(c)(2)(i)); or (2) selecting an application that meets the 
competitive priority over an application of comparable merit that does 
not meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(ii)).
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority, we are 
particularly interested in applications that meet the invitational 
priority. However, we do not give an application that meets the 
priority a competitive or absolute preference over other applications 
(34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).


    Note: NIDRR supports the goals of President Bush's New Freedom 
Initiative (NFI). The NFI can be accessed on the Internet at the 
following site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom.


    The final priorities are in concert with NIDRR's 1999-2003 Long-
Range Plan (Plan). The Plan is comprehensive and integrates many issues 
relating to disability and rehabilitation research topics. While 
applicants will find many sections throughout the Plan that support 
potential research to be conducted under the final priorities, a 
specific reference is included for each of the priorities presented in 
this notice. The Plan can be accessed on the Internet at the following 
site: http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/index.html.

    Through the implementation of the NFI and the Plan, NIDRR seeks to: 
(1) Improve the quality and utility of disability and rehabilitation 
research; (2) foster an exchange of expertise, information, and 
training to facilitate the advancement of knowledge and

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understanding of the unique needs of traditionally underserved 
populations; (3) determine best strategies and programs to improve 
rehabilitation outcomes for underserved populations; (4) identify 
research gaps; (5) identify mechanisms of integrating research and 
practice; and (6) disseminate findings.

Priorities

    The Assistant Secretary intends to fund RERCs, each of which must 
focus on one of the following priorities: (a) Technologies for Children 
with Orthopedic Disabilities, (b) Low Vision and Blindness, or (c) 
Universal Design and the Built Environment.
    (a) Technologies for Children with Orthopedic Disabilities: This 
RERC must research and develop technologies that will help children 
with orthopedic disabilities overcome functional deficits and that will 
support their ability to learn, play, and interact socially. The 
reference for this priority can be found in the Plan, chapter 5, 
Technology for Access and Function: Research to Enhance Mobility, and 
Research to Improve Manipulation Ability.
    (b) Low Vision and Blindness: This RERC must research and develop 
technologies that will improve assessment of vision impairments and 
promote independence for individuals with low vision and blindness, 
including those who are deaf/blind. The reference for this priority can 
be found in the Plan, chapter 5, Technology for Access and Function: 
Research to Improve or Substitute for Sensory Functioning.
    (c) Universal Design and the Built Environment: This RERC must 
research, develop, and evaluate strategies and devices that will 
advance the field of universal design and assist designers, builders, 
and manufacturers with incorporating universal design in their products 
and buildings. The reference for this priority can be found in the 
Plan, chapter 5, Technology for Access and Function: Systems 
Technology: Universal Design and Accessibility.
    Under any one of these priorities, RERCs must focus on innovative 
technological solutions, new knowledge, and concepts to promote the 
health, safety, independence, active engagement in daily activities, 
and quality of life of persons with disabilities. Accordingly, each 
RERC must:
    (1) Contribute substantially to the technical and scientific 
knowledge-base relevant to the priority;
    (2) Research, develop, and evaluate innovative technologies, 
products, environments, performance guidelines, and monitoring and 
assessment tools as applicable to the priority;
    (3) Identify, implement, and evaluate, in collaboration with the 
relevant industry, professional associations, and institutions of 
higher education, innovative approaches to expand research capacity in 
the specific field of study;
    (4) Monitor trends and evolving product concepts that represent and 
signify future directions for technologies in the specific area of 
research; and
    (5) Provide technical assistance to public and private 
organizations responsible for developing policies, guidelines, and 
standards that affect the specific area of research.
    In addition, the following requirements apply to each RERC 
priority:
     Each 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. Each 
RERC must evaluate the efficacy and safety of its new products, 
instrumentation, or assistive devices.
     Each RERC must develop and implement, in the first three 
months of the grant, a plan that describes how the RERC will include, 
as appropriate, individuals with disabilities or their representatives 
in all phases of its activities including research, development, 
training, dissemination, and evaluation;
     Each RERC must develop and implement, in the first year of 
the grant and in consultation with the NIDRR-funded National Center for 
the Dissemination of Disability Research (NCDDR), a plan to disseminate 
the RERC's research results to persons with disabilities, their 
representatives, disability organizations, service providers, 
professional journals, manufacturers, and other interested parties.
     Each RERC must develop and implement, in the first year of 
the grant and in consultation with the NIDRR-funded RERC on Technology 
Transfer, a plan for ensuring that all new and improved technologies 
developed by this RERC are successfully transferred to the marketplace.
     Each RERC must conduct a state-of-the-science conference 
on its respective area of research in the third year of the grant and 
publish a comprehensive report on the final outcomes of the conference 
in the fourth year of the grant.
     Each RERC must coordinate with research projects of mutual 
interest with relevant NIDRR-funded projects as identified through 
consultation with the NIDRR project officer.

Executive Order 12866

    This notice of final priorities has been reviewed in accordance 
with Executive Order 12866. Under the terms of the order, we have 
assessed the potential costs and benefits of this regulatory action.
    The potential costs associated with the notice of final priorities 
are those resulting from statutory requirements and those we have 
determined as necessary for administering this program effectively and 
efficiently.
    In assessing the potential costs and benefits--both quantitative 
and qualitative--of this notice of final priorities, we have determined 
that the benefits of the final priorities justify the costs.

Summary of Potential Costs and Benefits

    The potential costs associated with these final priorities are 
minimal while the benefits are significant. Grantees may anticipate 
costs associated with completing the application process in terms of 
staff time, copying, and mailing or delivery. The use of e-Application 
technology reduces mailing and copying costs significantly.
    The benefits of the RERC Program have been well established over 
the years in that similar projects have been completed successfully. 
These final priorities will generate new knowledge and technologies 
through research, development, dissemination, utilization, and 
technical assistance projects.
    Another benefit of these final priorities will be the establishment 
of new RERCs that support the President's NFI and will improve the 
lives of persons with disabilities. The new RERCs will generate, 
disseminate, and promote the use of new information that will improve 
the options for individuals with disabilities to perform regular 
activities in the community.
    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.

Electronic Access to This Document

    You may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe 
Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site: 
http://www.ed.gov/news/fedregister.

    To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available 
free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-

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888-293-6498; or in the Washington, DC, area at (202) 512-1530.

    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the 
official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal 
Regulations is available on GPO Access at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/nara/index.html.


(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number: 84.133E, 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers Program)

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 762(g) and 764(b)(3).

    Dated: April 6, 2005.
John H. Hager,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Appendix

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    Comment: One commenter believes the target audience for the 
Universal Design and the Built Environment priority should be 
expanded beyond architects and interior designers to include 
consumer product and package designers.
    Discussion: An applicant could propose activities that include 
consumer product and package designers and the peer review process 
will evaluate the merits of the proposal. However, NIDRR has no 
basis for requiring all applicants to include consumer product and 
package designers.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter believes the Universal Design and the 
Built Environment priority should require applicants to research, 
develop, and evaluate innovative ways to present human factors and 
other user data so that designers are more likely to incorporate the 
information into their designs.
    Discussion: An applicant could propose activities that include 
innovative ways to present human factors and other user data so that 
designers are more likely to incorporate the information into their 
designs and the peer review process will evaluate the merits of the 
proposal. However, NIDRR has no basis for requiring all applicants 
to include these specific types of activities in their proposals.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter states that persons with cognitive 
disabilities have been underserved by the universal design community 
and believes the Universal Design and the Built Environment priority 
should require applicants to include the design needs of persons 
with cognitive disabilities in their research and development 
projects.
    Discussion: Although NIDRR agrees with the commenter that the 
universal design community has been slow to include the design needs 
of persons with cognitive disabilities, it has no basis for 
requiring that all applicants focus on this population. Applicants 
are encouraged to include the population in their applications. The 
peer review process will evaluate the merits of the proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether the Universal Design and 
the Built Environment priority applies only to architectural design.
    Discussion: The Universal Design and the Built Environment 
priority does not apply only to architectural design. Applicants are 
required to advance the field of universal design and assist 
designers as well as builders and manufacturers, with incorporating 
universal design in their products and buildings.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Three commenters believe applicants responding to the 
Low Vision and Blindness priority should be required to target 
populations across their lifespan, including early infancy, and to 
include a focus on employment.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees with the commenters that there is a 
need to target populations across their lifespan, including early 
infancy, and to focus on employment. However, NIDRR believes that 
there are simply not enough resources allocated for this RERC to 
make it a requirement for all applicants. An applicant could propose 
activities that target populations across their lifespan, including 
early infancy, and that focus on employment. The peer review process 
will evaluate the merits of the proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked NIDRR to clarify that the Low 
Vision and Blindness priority is not restricted to only computer 
access.
    Discussion: The Low Vision and Blindness priority is not 
restricted only to computer access. Applicants are required to 
research and develop technologies that will improve assessment of 
vision impairments and promote independence for individuals with low 
vision and blindness, including those who are deaf/blind. Proposals 
may focus on computer access as well as other relevant technologies.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether the Technologies for 
Children with Orthopedic Disabilities priority is limited to 
conventional prosthetics and orthotics or whether it could be more 
broadly interpreted to include technology that can enhance the 
rehabilitation of children with orthopedic disabilities.
    Discussion: The Technologies for Children with Orthopedic 
Disabilities priority is not limited to conventional prosthetics and 
orthotics. The focus of this priority is broader. Accordingly, 
applicants are required to research and develop technologies that 
will help children with orthopedic disabilities overcome functional 
deficits and that will support their ability to learn, play, and 
interact socially.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked if NIDRR uses the same definition 
of orthopedic disability as the Office of Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).
    Discussion: NIDRR generally uses a modified version of the OSERS 
definition that includes an emphasis on function and mobility to 
improve participation and community living by individuals with 
disabilities.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked how much discretion an applicant 
has when determining the type and number of projects they include in 
their application.
    Discussion: An applicant has full discretion when determining 
the type and number of projects included in a proposal provided the 
projects are responsive to the given priority. The peer review 
process will evaluate the merits of the proposal.
    Changes: None.

[FR Doc. 05-8101 Filed 4-22-05; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4000-01-P