FR Doc E9-17924[Federal Register: July 28, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 143)]
[Notices]               
[Page 37191-37201]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr28jy09-27]                              

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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research 
(NIDRR)--Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers 
Program--Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTCs) and 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs)

    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Numbers: 84.133B 
Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers and 84.133E Rehabilitation 
Engineering Research Centers.

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

ACTION: Notice of final priorities (NFP) for RRTCs and RERCs.

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services announces certain funding priorities for the 
Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program 
administered by NIDRR. Specifically, this notice announces four 
priorities for RRTCs and three priorities for RERCs. The Assistant 
Secretary may use these priorities for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 
2009 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.

DATES: Effective Date: These priorities are effective August 27, 2009.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donna Nangle, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Room 6029, Potomac Center Plaza, 
Washington, DC 20202-2700. Telephone: (202) 245-7462 or by e-mail: 
donna.nangle@ed.gov.
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This NFP is in concert with NIDRR's Final 
Long-Range Plan for FY 2005-2009 (Plan). The Plan, which was published 
in the Federal Register on February 15, 2006 (71 FR 8165), can be 
accessed on the Internet at the following site: 
http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/nidrr/policy.html.
    Through the implementation of 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 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.
    This notice announces priorities that NIDRR intends to use for RRTC 
and RERC competitions in FY 2009 and possibly later years. However, 
nothing precludes NIDRR from publishing additional priorities, if 
needed. Furthermore, NIDRR is under no obligation to make an award for 
each of these priorities. The decision to make an award will be based 
on the quality of applications received and available funding.
    Purpose of Program: The purpose of the Disability and 
Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program is to plan and 
conduct research, demonstration projects, training, and related 
activities, including international activities, to develop methods, 
procedures, and rehabilitation technology, that maximize the full 
inclusion and integration into society, employment, independent living, 
family support, and economic and social self-sufficiency of individuals 
with disabilities, especially individuals with the most severe 
disabilities, and to improve the effectiveness of services authorized 
under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 762(g), 764(a), 764(b)(2), and 
764(b)(3).
    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.
    We published a notice of proposed priorities (NPP) for this program 
in the Federal Register on May 7, 2009 (74 FR 21338). That notice 
contained background information and our reasons for proposing the 
particular priorities. This information may be useful for applicants in 
preparing their applications.
    There are several significant differences between the NPP and this 
NFP, as discussed in the Analysis of Comments and Changes section 
elsewhere in this notice.
    Public Comment: In response to our invitation in the NPP, 80 
parties submitted comments on the proposed priorities.
    We discuss substantive issues under the priorities to which they 
pertain. Generally, we do not address technical and other minor changes 
or suggested changes the law does not authorize us to make under the 
applicable statutory authority. In addition, we do not address general 
comments that raised

[[Page 37192]]

concerns not directly related to the proposed priorities.
    Analysis of Comments and Changes: An analysis of the comments and 
of any changes in the priorities since publication of the NPP follows.

General

    Comment: One commenter noted that it is important for RRTC and RERC 
applicants to be aware of the concerns, needs, and strengths of 
individuals from diverse backgrounds (based on gender, race, ethnicity, 
and age), and appropriately address these within their proposed 
programs.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that it is important for grantees in the 
RRTC and RERC programs to address the needs of individuals with 
disabilities from diverse backgrounds. In order to maximize the utility 
of grant products, RRTC and RERC activities should take into account 
differences in the needs of individuals with disabilities, based on 
their gender, race, ethnicity, age, and other important 
characteristics. However, we do not believe it is necessary to require 
each grantee to address all of these factors. The peer review process 
will determine the merits of each proposal. We also note that NIDRR 
requires all RRTCs to demonstrate in their applications how they will 
address, in whole or in part, the needs of individuals with 
disabilities from minority backgrounds.
    Changes: None.

RRTCs

Priority 1--Improved Employment Outcomes for Individuals With 
Psychiatric Disabilities

    Comment: One commenter expressed an interest in implementing 
statewide supported employment programs that assist people with 
psychiatric disabilities to enter the workforce.
    Discussion: Under Title II of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as 
amended, NIDRR has the authority to sponsor research, demonstration 
projects, training, and related activities. NIDRR does not have the 
authority to fund the direct implementation of employment programs. 
However, paragraph (a)(3) of the priority does require applicants to 
develop, test, and validate adaptations of evidence-based interventions 
for individuals from traditionally underserved groups, and specifically 
mentions supported employment as an example of an evidence-based 
practice. Nothing in the priority precludes an applicant from focusing 
on supported employment when conducting activities under this priority. 
The peer review process will determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter requested clarification on the phrase 
``scientifically based research'' and asked how the definition of this 
phrase may impact the type of research design permitted in the 
applications.
    Discussion: Under this priority, scientifically based research must 
be used to identify or develop, and test, innovative interventions and 
employment accommodations. We are using the definition of 
``scientifically based research'' from section 9101(37) of the 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended. This 
definition emphasizes the use of experimental or quasi-experimental 
designs in which individuals, entities, programs, or activities are 
assigned to different conditions and with appropriate controls to 
evaluate the effects of the condition of interest, with a preference 
for random-assignment experiments. NIDRR believes that experimental 
research designs are appropriate for research that involves identifying 
or developing, and testing, interventions or accommodations, but are 
not necessarily appropriate for research activities of a more 
exploratory nature. Therefore, scientifically based research is 
explicitly required under paragraph (a)(1) of this priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that projects under this priority 
should conduct research on the full range of transition, systems, and 
needs (e.g., housing, transportation, money management, and performance 
of daily life activities) leading up to and supporting employment for 
people with psychiatric disabilities.
    Discussion: The priority requires the RRTC to contribute to 
improved models, programs, and interventions to enable individuals with 
psychiatric disabilities to obtain, retain, and advance in competitive 
employment of their choice. Nothing in the priority precludes an 
applicant from focusing on one or more of the topics identified by the 
commenter. We do not believe it is necessary to require that an 
applicant focus on all of those topics. The peer review process will 
determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that occupational therapists could 
work with vocational rehabilitation (VR) and other professionals to 
address employment-related factors so that individuals with psychiatric 
disabilities will be more prepared for tasks related to employment and 
independent living.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority precludes an applicant from 
including a focus on the role of occupational therapists in the 
research on improved models, programs, and interventions in paragraph 
(a)(1) of the priority, or in the research on effective partnerships 
between VR and other agencies and mental health groups in paragraph 
(a)(2). The peer review process will determine the merits of each 
proposal.
    Changes: None.

Priority 2--Transition-Age Youth and Young Adults With Serious Mental 
Health Conditions

    Comment: Forty-five commenters noted that the proposed priority did 
not address questions regarding serious mental health conditions in 
children younger than the age of 14. These commenters stated that many 
mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders have their onset before 
this age.
    Discussion: We recognize that many mental, emotional, and behavior 
disorders begin when children are much younger than age 14. However, it 
is not possible to address all age groups and conditions in a single 
RRTC. In developing this priority, NIDRR considered the state of the 
science, major Federal reports and initiatives, and priorities of the 
Department of Education, which included an emphasis on transition to 
adulthood. The decision to fund research addressing the needs of the 
target population (i.e., individuals between the ages of 14 and 30, 
inclusive) is a strategic one, based on a need for knowledge in this 
area.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Four commenters requested that the priority include 
families as a critical component of research.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that families are critical to the outcomes 
of children and young adults with serious mental health conditions. The 
priority requires research on family-guided care. In addition, 
paragraph (a) of the priority specifically requires family involvement 
in the processes of identifying, or developing, and evaluating 
interventions. We believe these provisions adequately address the 
concern raised by the commenters.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the research conducted under 
this priority should focus on policy and financing issues related to 
mental health disparities in the access, availability, and quality of 
services, and associated outcomes for children, youth, and families of 
color.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that research on policy and financing 
issues related to mental health disparities for children and youth of 
color would be an

[[Page 37193]]

important addition to the research literature. Applicants may propose 
such research under paragraph (c) of the priority, which requires 
research on the financial, policy, and other barriers to integration of 
youth and adult mental health systems. However, we have no basis for 
requiring all applicants to propose such research. In addition, the 
Department believes that limiting the research in this way would 
preclude applicants from proposing valuable research on the broader 
issues related to interventions and system coordination that would 
benefit all transition-aged youth with disabilities, including those 
from minority backgrounds. As described in the priority, research on 
this or other topics must focus on the experiences of youth and young 
adults between the ages of 14 and 30.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter noted that in May 2007, NIDRR convened a 
panel of experts on child and adolescent mental health that made a 
series of research recommendations, which are not addressed in the 
proposed priority. The commenter asked why panel recommendations in the 
areas of early intervention and screening, schools and education, 
family and community supports, systems of care, and diversity and 
cultural competence were not named as the focus of the priority.
    Discussion: In determining priority topics, NIDRR uses a number of 
inputs, including but not limited to: NIDRR's analysis of the state of 
the science; input from experts in the field (e.g., the 2007 expert 
panel on child and adolescent mental health); work produced by NIDRR's 
RRTCs; work sponsored by other agencies; major Federal reports and 
initiatives; and leadership initiatives at the Department of Education.
    Although the priority does not focus exclusively on the topics 
recommended by the 2007 expert panel, it does incorporate several of 
the panel's recommendations. For example, the priority requires the 
RRTC to utilize recovery-based outcome measures, including education 
and community integration. In addition, the priority requires the 
development of new knowledge in a number of areas recommended by the 
panel, including knowledge about youth and young adults with serious 
mental health conditions who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, a 
focus on family and consumer-guided care, and systems coordination.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the priority address the 
building of skills needed to achieve recovery-based outcomes.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that these skills are important to 
recovery and positive outcomes. Nothing in the priority precludes an 
applicant from proposing interventions research that highlights the 
building of skills needed to achieve recovery-based outcomes under 
paragraphs (a) and (b). However, NIDRR does not have a sufficient basis 
for requiring all applicants to propose such interventions. The peer 
review process will determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that research under this 
priority focus on the development of protocols for schools to bring 
together resources that help ensure safe and effective transition.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that school-based protocols can be useful 
in promoting safe and effective transition for youth with serious 
mental health conditions. Such protocols could play a role in 
interventions research under paragraphs (a) and (b) of the priority or 
in systems integration research under paragraph (c). Nothing in the 
priority precludes an applicant from proposing research on school-based 
protocols. However, NIDRR does not have a sufficient basis for 
requiring all applicants to do so. The peer review process will 
determine the merits of each proposal under this priority.
    Changes: None.

Priority 3--Improving Measurement of Medical Rehabilitation Outcomes

    Comment: Two commenters suggested that by specifically requiring 
the RRTC to develop measures of cognition and ``environmental factors'' 
under paragraph (a) of the priority NIDRR is limiting the range of 
innovative applications that might be received under this priority. The 
commenters suggested that applicants be invited to address any of the 
seven research recommendations from the NIDRR-sponsored Post-Acute 
Rehabilitation Symposium in 2007.
    Discussion: NIDRR has made the development of measures of cognitive 
function and measures to assess environmental factors a priority 
because adequate measures of these factors have not been developed for 
systemic application in the field of medical rehabilitation. Cognition 
is both a rehabilitation outcome and a factor related to broader 
functional and community outcomes for individuals with a wide variety 
of disabling conditions. Better measures of the environment are 
required to facilitate emerging research on the influence of 
environmental factors on medical rehabilitation outcomes.
    Paragraph (a) of the priority also permits an RRTC to develop 
medical rehabilitation outcome measures in other areas where a 
demonstrated need has been identified in the literature. This 
flexibility allows applicants to propose development of outcomes 
measures in additional areas, including other areas identified in the 
proceedings of the Post Acute Care Symposium. The peer review process 
will determine the merits of each proposal under this priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority require 
development of measures of physical function.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that measures of physical function are 
important in the field of medical rehabilitation research. NIDRR has 
sponsored the development of key measures of physical function, which 
are now widely used in the field. Nothing in this priority prohibits 
applicants from proposing the development of additional measures of 
physical function. The peer review process will determine the merits of 
each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR revise the priority to 
encourage the application of newly developed measures to assess the 
effectiveness of rehabilitation or to compare the effectiveness of 
different rehabilitation approaches.
    Discussion: The primary purpose of this priority is to develop 
outcome measures and data collection methods that improve the quality 
of disability and rehabilitation research related to medical 
rehabilitation. While we intend that the new outcome measures be used 
in the field, the application of new measures to assess the 
effectiveness of rehabilitation services is beyond the scope of this 
priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR should specify that 
simple, valid, and reliable methods for characterizing cognitive 
function of rehabilitation patients is needed and that the new measure 
of cognition should be broader, better, and more reliable than the 
cognitive subscale of the Functional Independence Measure (FIM).
    Discussion: In paragraph (a) of the priority, NIDRR emphasizes the 
specific need for valid and reliable measures of cognition, data 
collection efficiency, and the applicability of measures across a wide 
variety of rehabilitation settings

[[Page 37194]]

and disability groups. NIDRR agrees that the cognitive subscale of the 
FIM is an important benchmark in the field. However, we have no basis 
for requiring that all applicants use the FIM as a reference point as 
they develop new measures of cognition. Applicants may discuss the 
merits of their proposed measures, relative to the cognitive subscale 
of the FIM or any other relevant existing measure.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked NIDRR to specify whether we are 
prioritizing measures of the environment that focus on the 
characteristics of rehabilitation settings or on the characteristics of 
the social and physical environments to which rehabilitation patients 
are discharged.
    Discussion: Paragraph (a) of the priority states that the RRTC must 
develop valid and reliable measures to assess environmental factors 
that affect outcomes among individuals with disabilities living in the 
community. NIDRR understands that characteristics of rehabilitation 
settings and characteristics of the home and community environment may 
affect outcomes. Applicants may propose and justify the development of 
measures in either, or both, settings.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter noted that computer adaptive testing (CAT) 
and item response theory may not be applicable to some key measurement 
areas, including measurement of the environment. This commenter 
suggested that we revise the priority to clarify that data collection 
strategies should be determined by the state of the science and that 
other data collection strategies may apply in some measurement domains.
    Discussion: The priority does not endorse CAT as a universal 
approach for measurement. Rather, the priority calls for applicants to 
include item response theory and CAT techniques as strategies. Nothing 
in this priority prohibits applicants from proposing strategies in 
addition to these two. However, we acknowledge that our intent in this 
area may not be clear.
    Changes: We have revised paragraph (a) of the priority to clarify 
that data collection strategies for newly developed measures must 
include, but are not limited to, item response theory and CAT 
techniques, as appropriate.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that applicants be required to 
develop rehabilitation measures via research methods that are theory-
based, with particular attention on reduction of measurement error and 
enhancement of precision. This commenter also recommended that measures 
developed under this priority should generate clinically useful 
information.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that these are important considerations 
when developing rehabilitation outcome measures. However, we do not 
believe it is necessary for the priority to specify the role of theory-
based methods of measure development. Applicants' attention to issues 
such as these will be considered during peer review. The peer review 
process will determine the merits of each proposal under this priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the priority require 
research on methods for linking payment for post-acute rehabilitation 
to rehabilitation outcomes, across post-acute settings of care.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that linking payment for post-acute 
rehabilitation to rehabilitation outcomes is an important issue. 
However, the purpose of this priority is to improve measurement of 
medical rehabilitation outcomes. Development of methods for 
establishing an outcomes-based rehabilitation payment system is beyond 
the scope of this priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the priority ensure that 
individuals from a broad range of professions and interests be allowed 
to participate in the training to ensure comprehensive coverage of the 
full range of rehabilitation.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that it would be beneficial to have 
individuals from a broad range of professions participate in the 
training.
    Changes: We have revised the last sentence of paragraph (b) of the 
priority to require, where appropriate, the inclusion of 
multidisciplinary approaches from a broad range of professions and 
interests in the program of training.

Priority 4--Developing Strategies To Foster Community Integration and 
Participation for Individuals With Traumatic Brain Injury

    Comment: Three commenters noted that development of improved tools 
for traumatic brain injury (TBI) research, required under paragraphs 
(a) and (b) of the proposed priority, would reduce grant resources that 
should be spent on testing interventions to promote community 
integration and participation.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that there is a great need for community 
integration and participation (CIP) interventions in TBI. Our reading 
of the research literature suggests that better characterization of 
symptom variations within research samples might contribute 
substantially to improved accumulation of knowledge regarding the 
effectiveness of interventions. In response to the concerns of 
commenters that it would be difficult for one RRTC both to develop and 
test interventions and to develop a TBI classification system, we 
reordered the priority requirements to emphasize the testing of 
interventions and we eliminated some of the prescriptive requirements 
related to the development of a TBI classification system. Although we 
reduced the number of requirements for the development of a TBI 
classification system, we expect applicants to propose and justify the 
steps they will take to accomplish this task. The peer review process 
will determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: We have revised the priority by reordering the priority 
requirements, eliminating the requirement for expert input into the 
classification system, and eliminating the requirement for the 
development of a manual for use of the classification system. Also, in 
response to this comment and related comments, discussed below in 
greater detail, we have revised the priority by decoupling the testing 
of interventions from the classification system, eliminating the 
numerous examples of symptoms, eliminating the requirement for a short 
version of the classification system, and eliminating the requirement 
for a literature review.
    Comment: Three commenters stated that the sequential nature of the 
priority makes the timeline for required activities infeasible. Two of 
these commenters suggested that the research tools required under 
paragraphs (a) and (b) of the priority be developed concurrently with 
the interventions research conducted under paragraph (c) instead of 
having the testing of interventions be tied to the development of the 
research tools. One of these commenters asked about the logistical 
difficulty of reviewing and funding interventions research, which would 
not be developed and specified until after the completion of the 
research tools.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that the sequential nature of the required 
activities as presented in the proposed priority may substantially 
reduce the time available to conduct research on the TBI interventions.
    Changes: We have revised the priority by eliminating the 
requirement that the testing of interventions be tied to the 
classification system.

[[Page 37195]]

    Comment: Three commenters stated that the development of a symptom-
based classification of individuals with TBI is not feasible. These 
commenters noted that the large number of TBI symptoms and the 
uniqueness of every individual with TBI preclude meaningful 
classification.
    Discussion: NIDRR understands that there are numerous TBI symptoms, 
and that every individual with TBI has unique circumstances and 
experiences. However, this does not preclude the development of tools 
to help broadly classify individuals with TBI according to the TBI 
symptoms that they experience. Through collection and analysis of data 
by researchers and clinicians, this RRTC can determine the prevalence 
of relevant clusters of TBI symptoms.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the general practice among TBI 
researchers of using inclusion and exclusion criteria to enroll 
appropriate individuals into research projects is adequate. The 
commenter also stated that the symptom classification required under 
paragraph (c) of the priority is not useful for this purpose.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that clear and appropriate inclusion and 
exclusion criteria are essential in the field of disability research. 
However, individuals with similar severity of injury or cognitive 
function can have a wide range of symptoms that is not specified in the 
inclusion or exclusion criteria. This range can affect the impact of 
interventions, limit the ability to compare the findings of different 
studies, and make it unclear whether the findings can be generalized. A 
TBI symptom classification can serve as a tool for identifying 
important variations within samples, promote comparability of studies, 
and clarify the extent to which findings can be generalized to the 
larger population of individuals with TBI.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested that the symptom classification 
to be developed for this priority is potentially duplicative of an 
emerging effort to develop a classification of individuals with TBI 
based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, 
and Health (ICF). However, one of these commenters noted that the 
sample size planned by this group could limit its ability to generate 
adequate information about infrequent yet important TBI symptoms.
    Discussion: We do not believe that the classification to be 
developed under this priority will be duplicative of the effort based 
on the ICF. NIDRR's focus on a symptom-based classification related to 
CIP should support the development of this broader classification 
activity. Applicants may propose methods that are in concert with this 
ICF effort or other methods of creating a symptom-based classification 
of individuals with TBI, as appropriate.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters stated that the requirement in the priority 
that the grantee review the literature on barriers to CIP among 
individuals with TBI is unnecessary. These commenters stated that the 
review of literature on barriers to CIP is likely to be redundant with 
the effort to develop a list of symptoms because TBI symptoms are often 
CIP barriers for this population.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that the literature on barriers to CIP may 
be significantly related to the list of TBI symptoms; in fact, NIDRR 
believes this relationship strengthens the importance of reviewing 
current and relevant literature. However, NIDRR feels that requiring a 
literature review under this priority is unnecessarily prescriptive. 
Applicants' plans for conducting and incorporating such a literature 
review into the RRTC's activities will be considered during peer 
review. The peer review process will determine the merits of each 
proposal under this priority.
    Changes: We have revised the priority by removing the requirement 
for a literature review.
    Comment: One commenter noted that the expertise necessary to create 
a TBI classification system under paragraphs (a) and (b) of the 
priority is different from the expertise required to carry out TBI 
interventions research under paragraph (c). The commenter stated that 
it may be difficult for an RRTC to have staff with this diverse 
expertise.
    Discussion: NIDRR recognizes that an RRTC developing a TBI 
classification system and conducting high-quality intervention studies 
is likely to require staff with varying expertise. We would expect that 
an RRTC would have this diversity. In addition, as stated in its Long 
Range Plan, NIDRR expects RRTCs to be multidisciplinary, i.e., able to 
combine the strengths and perspectives of researchers from multiple 
disciplines and areas of expertise. (See 71 FR 8166, 8177.)
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR should publish a less 
prescriptive priority that would allow applicants more latitude to 
propose innovative research topics. This commenter and one other 
suggested a number of potentially innovative topics that could be 
proposed under such a priority. The suggested topics included testing 
cognitive rehabilitation interventions; assessing the use of computer-
mediated networking technologies; developing new tools for measuring 
CIP; reviewing literature on CIP related interventions; and developing 
strategies to improve employment outcomes among individuals with TBI.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that research on these topics may generate 
new knowledge about CIP among individuals with TBI. Many of these 
topics are appropriate for development under paragraph (a) of the 
priority that requires testing of interventions to improve CIP among 
individuals with TBI. Applicants may propose these topics. The peer 
review process will determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked for clarification of NIDRR's intent 
related to the requirement to ``empirically validate'' the required 
list of TBI symptoms. This commenter noted that the time and resources 
required to validate the symptom list could vary greatly, depending on 
the applicants' approach to the task.
    Discussion: Empirical validation is the use of data to demonstrate 
the intended utility of a tool. Applicants must propose and justify 
their approach to the validation of the TBI symptom list. The peer 
review will determine the merits of each proposal under this priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked what it means for applicants to 
``provide or develop effective and practical methods'' for the 
identification of TBI symptoms. This commenter noted that there are no 
practical and effective methods for identifying many TBI symptoms.
    Discussion: We recognize that it may not be feasible to provide an 
effective and practical method for identifying each TBI symptom. We 
expect that applicants will provide the most appropriate methods that 
are available for this purpose.
    Changes: We have revised the priority by requiring that the methods 
for identification of TBI symptoms be appropriate, rather than 
effective and practical.
    Comment: One commenter noted that the list of symptoms in paragraph 
(a) of the proposed priority included not just symptoms, but diseases, 
diagnoses, and a number of ``problems'' that people may experience 
after TBI.
    Discussion: We agree that this list is unclear. We believe that 
applicants

[[Page 37196]]

should propose and justify their own list of TBI symptoms.
    Changes: We have revised the priority by eliminating specific 
examples of the four major categories of symptoms named in the 
priority.
    Comment: One commenter asked NIDRR to clarify its intent with 
regard to the ``short version'' of the classification system required 
under paragraph (b)(2) of the proposed priority. The commenter noted 
that valid and reliable short diagnostic tests do not exist for most 
TBI symptoms and that existing diagnostic tools are generally 
copyrighted. This commenter also noted that development of ``short 
versions'' of methodological tools is generally cost-prohibitive within 
a limited five-year budget.
    Discussion: We agree that development of a short version of the TBI 
symptom classification system can be logistically complex and could 
absorb a disproportionate share of the Center's resources.
    Changes: We have revised the priority by removing the requirement 
for a short version of the TBI classification system.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that systematic reviews are a 
feasible and more traditional method for achieving the priority's aim 
of linking interventions to TBI symptoms.
    Discussion: We decoupled the interventions-testing requirement from 
the requirement to develop a symptom-based TBI classification system. 
The linking of interventions to TBI symptoms is no longer an explicit 
requirement for RRTCs under this priority. However, one aim of a TBI 
classification system, generally, is to allow better targeting of 
interventions to specific symptoms. Applicants may propose a systematic 
review in support of the requirements of this priority. However, we 
have no basis for requiring all applicants to do so. The peer review 
process will determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that, in addition to its current 
focus on symptoms of TBI and barriers to CIP, the priority should focus 
on strengths of individuals with TBI and facilitators of CIP.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that it is important to highlight the 
strengths of individuals with TBI and the facilitators of their CIP. 
The introductory paragraph of the priority refers to examining barriers 
to and facilitators of CIP for individuals with disabilities. The 
remainder of the priority refers to interventions that facilitate CIP 
for individuals with TBI. We believe that the revised priority strikes 
the appropriate balance between barriers to and facilitators of CIP.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the incidence of TBI is greater, 
yet access to rehabilitation services is lower, among minority 
populations. While recognizing that NIDRR requires all RRTCs to 
demonstrate how they will address the needs of individuals with 
disabilities from minority backgrounds, this commenter recommended that 
NIDRR add a specific requirement for this RRTC regarding the inclusion 
of minorities and individuals from diverse educational and 
socioeconomic backgrounds in research samples.
    Discussion: NIDRR believes that requiring RRTCs to demonstrate how 
they will address the needs of individuals with disabilities from 
minority backgrounds is sufficient to promote appropriately diverse 
research samples under this priority. Applicants may propose and 
justify sample characteristics that are appropriate to their proposed 
research. The peer review process will determine the merits of each 
proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended additional requirements for the 
symptom-based classification system, and specifically that the system 
include information about the environmental context in which symptoms 
are experienced. This commenter noted that information about the 
contexts in which symptoms are experienced will help inform the design 
of a symptom-based classification system and effective interventions.
    Discussion: We agree that additional information of this nature may 
be useful in the development of a TBI classification system and TBI 
interventions. However, we have no basis for requiring all applicants 
to do so. The peer review process will determine the merits of each 
proposal.
    Changes: None.

RERCs

Priority 5--Telerehabilitation

    Comment: One commenter noted that mobile monitoring of gait and 
vision and home monitoring may be the future of fall and accident 
prevention for individuals with disabilities.
    Discussion: NIDRR recognizes that mobile monitoring of gait and 
vision and home monitoring may be an important aspect of 
telerehabilitation. The priority allows applicants the discretion to 
propose research on mobile monitoring of gait and vision and home 
monitoring. However, NIDRR has no basis for requiring that all 
applicants do so.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR expand the priority to 
include non-real time telerehabilitation applications.
    Discussion: NIDRR recognizes that the use of non-real time methods 
can play a role in effective telerehabilitation services. We agree that 
applicants should be permitted to propose research on and development 
of technologies that support a variety of interventions, regardless of 
whether or not those interventions are to be delivered in real time. 
The peer review process will determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: We have revised the priority by removing the requirement 
that telerehabilitation applications be in real time.
    Comment: One commenter noted that there is no need for a one-size-
fits-all solution for telerehabilitation infrastructure and 
architecture. The commenter noted that technology needs will vary 
considerably, based on unique needs of a diverse target population of 
individuals with disabilities.
    Discussion: NIDRR does not intend to imply a one-size-fits-all 
solution for telerehabilitation infrastructure and architecture. The 
requirement that the RERC contribute to the continuing development of 
``a'' telerehabilitation infrastructure and architecture may have led 
to this interpretation.
    Changes: We have revised the priority by removing the first 
indefinite article (``a'') from the second sentence.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR more clearly define the 
meaning of ``barriers'' to telerehabilitation and ``limited access'' to 
rehabilitation. The commenter specifically suggested geography, 
physical immobility, clinician shortages, transportation, lack of 
reimbursement, licensure, and lack of appropriate technology as 
barriers that should be addressed by the RERC.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that these can be important barriers to 
successful telerehabilitation and can affect access to rehabilitation 
services. However, NIDRR has no basis for requiring all applicants to 
address these specific barriers to rehabilitation services. NIDRR 
expects applicants to identify and justify the barriers upon which they 
will focus. The peer review process will determine the merits of each 
proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that one of the greatest obstacles to 
the large-scale implementation of telerehabilitation service delivery 
is a lack of reimbursement. This commenter suggested that NIDRR require 
applicants to promote reimbursement of

[[Page 37197]]

telerehabilitation services. A second commenter also emphasized the 
importance of economic and reimbursement barriers to 
telerehabilitation.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that lack of reimbursement can be an 
important barrier to use of telerehabilitation on a larger scale. 
Nothing in the priority precludes an applicant from focusing on this 
issue in its proposal. However, NIDRR has no basis for requiring all 
applicants to conduct research and development activities related to 
telerehabilitation reimbursement. The peer review process will 
determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked if NIDRR intends the scope of this 
RERC to include clinical studies with large patient cohorts or policy 
and economic studies to determine factors such as cost effectiveness or 
reimbursement by health care systems.
    Discussion: This comment referred to the content provided in the 
background statement for this priority. Although the background 
statement suggested the importance of these types of research, the 
priority does not require that the RERC perform large-scale clinical 
studies or policy and economic studies related to telerehabilitation.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter emphasized the importance of usability 
testing when developing telerehabilitation products.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that usability testing is important. In 
development activities, RERCs must work directly with individuals with 
disabilities and their relevant representatives. Although this 
requirement does not specifically require usability testing, such 
testing regularly occurs in the development of technologies within the 
RERCs. However, we have no basis for requiring all applicants to do so. 
The peer review process will determine the merits of each proposal.
    Changes: None.

Priority 7--Cognitive Rehabilitation

    Comment: One commenter noted that the proposed priority did not 
mention a more holistic approach to improve cognitive function, which 
may include cognitive training therapies and exercise therapy.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that holistic approaches and therapies may 
help improve cognitive function. However, the purpose of this priority 
is to contribute to the development and testing of assistive technology 
products that enhance cognitive functions needed to perform daily tasks 
at home, school, work, and in the community. Research on cognitive or 
exercise therapies are beyond the scope of this priority.
    Changes: None.

Final Priorities

    In this notice, we are announcing four priorities for RRTCs and 
three priorities for RERCs.
    For RRTCs, the final priorities are:
     Priority 1--Improved Employment Outcomes for Individuals 
With Psychiatric Disabilities.
     Priority 2--Transition-Age Youth and Young Adults With 
Serious Mental Health Conditions.
     Priority 3--Improving Measurement of Medical 
Rehabilitation Outcomes.
     Priority 4--Developing Strategies to Foster Community 
Integration and Participation for Individuals With Traumatic Brain 
Injury.
    For RERCs, the final priorities are:
     Priority 5--Telerehabilitation.
     Priority 6--Telecommunication.
     Priority 7--Cognitive Rehabilitation.

RRTC Program

    The purpose of the RRTC program is to improve the effectiveness of 
services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 
through advanced research, training, technical assistance, and 
dissemination activities in general problem areas, as specified by 
NIDRR. Such activities are designed to benefit rehabilitation service 
providers, individuals with disabilities, and the family members or 
other authorized representatives of individuals with disabilities. In 
addition, NIDRR intends to require all RRTC applicants to meet the 
requirements of the General Rehabilitation Research and Training 
Centers (RRTC) Requirements priority that it published in a NFP in the 
Federal Register on February 1, 2008 (72 FR 6132).
    Additional information on the RRTC program can be found at: 
http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/res-program.html#RRTC.

Statutory and Regulatory Requirements of RRTCs

    RRTCs must--
     Carry out coordinated advanced programs of rehabilitation 
research;
     Provide training, including graduate, pre-service, and in-
service training, to help rehabilitation personnel more effectively 
provide rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities;
     Provide technical assistance to individuals with 
disabilities, their representatives, providers, and other interested 
parties;
     Demonstrate in their applications how they will address, 
in whole or in part, the needs of individuals with disabilities from 
minority backgrounds;
     Disseminate informational materials to individuals with 
disabilities, their representatives, providers, and other interested 
parties; and
     Serve as centers of national excellence in rehabilitation 
research for individuals with disabilities, their representatives, 
providers, and other interested parties.

Final Priorities

Priority 1--Improved Employment Outcomes for Individuals With 
Psychiatric Disabilities

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation Research and 
Training Center (RRTC) on Improved Employment Outcomes for Individuals 
with Psychiatric Disabilities. The RRTC must conduct rigorous research, 
training, technical assistance, and knowledge translation activities 
that contribute to improved employment outcomes for individuals with 
psychiatric disabilities. Under this priority, the RRTC must be 
designed to contribute to the following outcomes:
    (a) Improved models, programs, and interventions to enable 
individuals with psychiatric disabilities to obtain, retain, and 
advance in competitive employment of their choice. The RRTC must 
contribute to this outcome by--
    (1) Identifying or developing, and testing, innovative 
interventions and employment accommodations using scientifically based 
research (as this term is defined in section 9101(37) of the Elementary 
and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended). These interventions 
and employment accommodations must include an emphasis on consumer 
control, peer supports, and community living, and address the needs of 
individuals from traditionally underserved groups (e.g., individuals 
from diverse racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds, and different 
geographic areas, and individuals with multiple disabilities).
    (2) Conducting research to identify barriers to, and facilitators 
of, effective partnerships between State vocational rehabilitation (VR) 
agencies, the Social Security Administration, State and local mental 
health programs, and consumer-directed programs, and collaborating with 
these entities to develop new models for effective partnerships.
    (3) Developing, testing, and validating adaptations of evidence-
based interventions to enhance the effectiveness of those interventions 
for

[[Page 37198]]

individuals from traditionally underserved groups (e.g., individuals 
from diverse racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds, and geographic 
areas, and individuals with multiple disabilities). Current evidence-
based approaches include but are not limited to supported employment.
    (b) Increased incorporation of research findings related to 
employment and psychiatric disability into practice or policy. The RRTC 
must contribute to this outcome by coordinating with appropriate NIDRR-
funded knowledge translation grantees to advance their work in the 
following areas:
    (1) Developing, evaluating, or implementing strategies to increase 
utilization of research findings related to employment and psychiatric 
disability.
    (2) Conducting training, technical assistance, and dissemination 
activities to increase utilization of research findings related to 
employment and psychiatric disability.
    In addition to contributing to these outcomes, the RRTC must:
     Collaborate with state VR agencies and other stakeholder 
groups (e.g., consumers, families, advocates, clinicians, policymakers, 
training programs, employer groups, and researchers) in conducting the 
work of the RRTC. Research partners in this collaboration must include, 
but are not limited to, the NIDRR-funded RRTC for Vocational 
Rehabilitation Research, the Disability Rehabilitation Research Project 
on Innovative Knowledge Dissemination and Utilization for Disability 
and Professional Organizations and Stakeholders, and other relevant 
NIDRR grantees.

Priority 2--Transition-Age Youth and Young Adults With Serious Mental 
Health Conditions

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation Research and 
Training Center (RRTC) on Transition-Age Youth and Young Adults with 
Serious Mental Health Conditions (SMHC). This RRTC must conduct 
research that contributes to improved transition outcomes for youth and 
young adults with SMHC, including youth and young adults with SMHC from 
high-risk, disadvantaged backgrounds. The research conducted by this 
RRTC must focus on family and consumer-guided care. For purposes of 
this priority, the term ``youth and young adults with SMHC'' refers to 
individuals between the ages of 14 and 30, inclusive, who have been 
diagnosed with either serious emotional disturbance (for individuals 
under the age of 18 years) or serious mental illness (for those 18 
years of age or older). Under this priority, the RRTC must contribute 
to the following outcomes:
    (a) Improved and developmentally appropriate interventions for 
youth and young adults with SMHC. The RRTC must contribute to this 
outcome by identifying or developing, and evaluating, innovative 
interventions that meet the needs of youth and young adults with SMHC 
using scientifically based research (as this term is defined in section 
9101(37) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as 
amended). In carrying out this research, the RRTC must utilize 
recovery-based outcome measures, including improved employment, 
education, and community integration, among youth and young adults with 
SMHC. The RRTC must involve youth and young adults with SMHC, and their 
families or family surrogates, in the processes of identifying or 
developing, and evaluating, interventions.
    (b) New knowledge about interventions for youth and young adults 
with SMHC who are from disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g., backgrounds 
involving foster care, poverty, abuse, or substance abuse). The RRTC 
must contribute to this outcome by conducting scientifically based 
research to identify or develop, and evaluate effective interventions, 
for these at-risk youth and young adults with SMHC.
    (c) Improved coordination between child and adult mental health 
services. The RRTC must contribute to this outcome by conducting 
research to identify and evaluate innovative approaches that address 
financial, policy, and other barriers to smooth system integration 
between the child and adult mental health service systems.
    (d) Improved capacity building for service providers. The RRTC must 
provide training and technical assistance with a particular emphasis on 
graduate, pre-service, and in-service training and curriculum 
development designed to prepare direct service providers for work with 
youth and young adults with SMHC.
    (e) Increased translation of findings into practice or policy. The 
RRTC must contribute to this outcome by coordinating with the RRTC on 
Vocational Rehabilitation and with appropriate NIDRR-funded knowledge 
translation grantees to--
    (1) Collaborate with State VR agencies and other stakeholder groups 
(e.g., State educational agencies, youth and young adults with SMHC, 
families, family surrogates, and clinicians) to develop, evaluate, or 
implement strategies to increase utilization of findings in programs 
targeted to youth and young adults with SMHC; and
    (2) Conduct dissemination activities to increase utilization of the 
RRTC's findings.

Priority 3--Improving Measurement of Medical Rehabilitation Outcomes

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation Research and 
Training Center (RRTC) on Measurement of Medical Rehabilitation 
Outcomes. This RRTC must create and implement state-of-the-art measures 
for medical rehabilitation outcomes and identify the cognitive and 
environmental factors that shape those outcomes. Under this priority, 
the RRTC must be designed to contribute to the following outcomes:
    (a) New tools and measures that facilitate research to promote 
improved clinical practice in the field of medical rehabilitation. The 
RRTC must contribute to this outcome by developing valid and reliable 
measures of cognitive function for individuals who receive post-acute 
medical rehabilitation, as well as measures to assess environmental 
factors that affect outcomes among individuals with disabilities living 
in the community. The RRTC may also develop medical rehabilitation 
outcome measures in other areas where a demonstrated need has been 
identified in the literature. In order to promote efficient collection 
of outcomes data, this RRTC must develop and apply data collection 
strategies for newly developed measures. These strategies must include, 
but are not limited to, item response theory and computer adaptive 
testing techniques, as appropriate. Measures developed by the RRTC must 
be designed to improve the capacity of researchers and practitioners to 
measure medical rehabilitation outcomes in a wide variety of settings 
and across disability groups.
    (b) Improved capacity to conduct rigorous medical rehabilitation 
outcomes research. The RRTC must contribute to this capacity by 
providing a coordinated and advanced program of training in medical 
rehabilitation research that is aimed at increasing the number of 
qualified researchers working in the area of medical rehabilitation 
outcomes research. This program must focus on research methodology and 
outcomes measurement development, provide for experience in conducting 
applied research, and, where appropriate, include multidisciplinary 
approaches from a broad range of professions and interests.

[[Page 37199]]

    (c) Collaboration with relevant projects, including NIDRR-sponsored 
projects, such as the Disability Rehabilitation Research Project on 
Classification and Measurement of Medical Rehabilitation Interventions, 
and other projects identified through consultation with the NIDRR 
project officer.

Priority 4--Developing Strategies To Foster Community Integration and 
Participation for Individuals With Traumatic Brain Injury

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation Research and 
Training Center (RRTC) for Developing Strategies to Foster Community 
Integration and Participation (CIP) for Individuals with Traumatic 
Brain Injury (TBI). This RRTC must conduct rigorous research to examine 
barriers to and facilitators of CIP for individuals with TBI; provide 
training and technical assistance to promote and maximize the benefits 
of this research; develop and validate a symptom-based, clinically and 
scientifically useful system for classifying individuals with TBI after 
discharge from inpatient medical or rehabilitative care; and develop, 
implement, and evaluate interventions to improve long-term outcomes--
including return to work--for individuals with TBI. Under this 
priority, the RRTC must be designed to contribute to the following 
outcomes:
    (a) New interventions to improve the level of CIP for individuals 
with TBI. The RRTC must contribute to this outcome by identifying or 
developing, and then evaluating, specific interventions to improve the 
CIP of individuals with TBI, using scientifically based research 
methods.
    (b) New knowledge about the full range of symptoms of TBI that are 
experienced by individuals with TBI at any time after they exit 
inpatient care and re-enter the community. The RRTC must contribute to 
this outcome by developing and empirically validating a comprehensive 
list of the symptoms of TBI that can exist after inpatient care and 
that have the potential to affect CIP, and provide or develop 
appropriate methods for their identification. These symptoms include, 
but are not limited to, the following categories: neurological; 
medical; cognitive; and behavioral.
    (c) An improved research infrastructure for developing 
interventions that facilitate CIP for individuals with TBI. The RRTC 
must contribute to this outcome by developing a classification system 
based on the symptoms identified in paragraph (b) of this priority for 
use with individuals with TBI.
    (d) Improved levels of CIP for individuals with TBI. The RRTC must 
contribute to this outcome by--
    (1) Developing a systematic plan for widespread dissemination of 
informational materials related to the Center's TBI interventions 
research and the symptom list and associated classification system to 
researchers, individuals with TBI and their family members, clinical 
practitioners, service providers, and members of the community. The 
RRTC must work with its NIDRR project officer to coordinate outreach 
and dissemination of research findings through appropriate venues such 
as NIDRR's Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, State agencies 
and programs that administer a range of disability services and 
resources, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health 
Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense, and related veterans' 
service organizations; and
    (2) Establishing and maintaining mechanisms for providing technical 
assistance to critical stakeholders, such as researchers, consumers and 
their family members, clinical practitioners, service providers, and 
members of the community to facilitate the use of knowledge generated 
by the RRTC.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs)

General Requirements of RERCs

    RERCs 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: (a) Solve rehabilitation problems and remove 
environmental barriers; and (b) study and evaluate new or emerging 
technologies, products, or environments and their effectiveness and 
benefits; or
     Demonstrating and disseminating: (a) Innovative models for 
the delivery of cost-effective rehabilitation technology services to 
rural and urban areas; and (b) other scientific research to assist in 
meeting the employment and independent living needs of individuals with 
severe disabilities; and
     Facilitating service delivery systems change through: (a) 
The development, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative consumer-
responsive and individual- and family-centered models for the delivery 
to both rural and urban areas of innovative, cost-effective 
rehabilitation technology services; and (b) other scientific research 
to assist in meeting the employment and independence needs of 
individuals with severe disabilities.
    Each RERC must be operated by, or in collaboration with, one or 
more institutions of higher education or one or more nonprofit 
organizations.
    Each RERC must provide training opportunities, in conjunction with 
institutions of higher education or nonprofit organizations, to assist 
individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to become 
rehabilitation technology researchers and practitioners.
    Each RERC must emphasize the principles of universal design in its 
product research and development. Universal design is ``the design of 
products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest 
extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized 
design'' (North Carolina State University, 1997. 
http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/about_ud/udprinciplestext.htm).
    Additional information on the RERCs can be found at: 
http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/index.html.

Priorities 5, 6, and 7--Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers 
(RERCs) on Telerehabilitation (Priority 5), Telecommunication (Priority 
6), and Cognitive Rehabilitation (Priority 7)

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces the following three priorities for the establishment 
of (a) An RERC on Telerehabilitation; (b) an RERC on Telecommunication; 
and (c) an RERC on Cognitive Rehabilitation. Within its designated 
priority research area, each RERC will focus on innovative 
technological solutions, new knowledge, and concepts that will improve 
the lives of individuals with disabilities.
    (a) RERC on Telerehabilitation (Priority 5). Under this priority, 
the RERC must conduct research on and develop methods, systems, and 
technologies that support consultative, preventative, diagnostic and 
therapeutic interventions and address the barriers to successful 
telerehabilitation for individuals who have limited local access to 
comprehensive medical and rehabilitation outpatient services. The RERC 
must contribute to the continuing development of telerehabilitation 
infrastructure and architecture, conduct research and development 
projects on technologies that can be used to deliver telerehabilitation 
services, address the barriers to successful telerehabilitation

[[Page 37200]]

to individuals who have limited access to rehabilitation services, 
participate in the development of telerehabilitation standards, and 
contribute, by means of research and development, to the use of 
telerehabilitation on a larger scale.
    (b) RERC on Telecommunication (Priority 6). Under this priority, 
the RERC must research and develop technological solutions to promote 
universal access to telecommunications systems and products, including 
strategies for integrating current accessibility features into newer 
generations of telecommunications systems and products. The RERC must 
contribute to the continuing development of interoperable 
telecommunications systems, items, and assistive technologies; conduct 
research and development projects that enable access to emerging 
telecommunications technologies; address the barriers to successful 
telecommunication, including emergency communications access; and 
participate in the development of telecommunications standards.
    (c) RERC on Cognitive Rehabilitation (Priority 7). Under this 
priority, the RERC must research and develop methods, systems, and 
technologies that will improve: Existing assistive technology for 
cognition; the integration of assistive technology for cognition into 
assistive technology design; and the application of this technology in 
vocational rehabilitation settings, career development programs, 
postsecondary education facilities, and places of work. The RERC must 
contribute to the development and testing of assistive technology 
products that enhance cognitive functions needed to perform daily tasks 
and activities at home, school, work, and in the community; and to the 
development, testing, and implementation of cognitive assistive 
technology training programs and materials for professional use as well 
as for consumer use.

RERC Requirements

    Under each priority, the RERC must be designed to contribute to the 
following outcomes:
    (1) Increased technical and scientific knowledge base relevant to 
its designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this 
outcome by conducting high-quality, rigorous research and development 
projects.
    (2) Innovative technologies, products, environments, performance 
guidelines, and monitoring and assessment tools applicable to its 
designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this 
outcome through the development and testing of these innovations.
    (3) Improved research capacity in its designated priority research 
area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by collaborating with 
the relevant industry, professional associations, and institutions of 
higher education.
    (4) Improved focus on cutting edge developments in technologies 
within its designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute 
to this outcome by identifying and communicating with NIDRR and the 
field regarding trends and evolving product concepts related to its 
designated priority research area.
    (5) Increased impact of research in the designated priority 
research area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by providing 
technical assistance to public and private organizations, individuals 
with disabilities, and employers on policies, guidelines, and standards 
related to its designated priority research area.
    (6) Increased transfer of RERC-developed technologies to the 
marketplace. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by developing and 
implementing a plan for ensuring that all technologies developed by the 
RERC are made available to the public. The technology transfer plan 
must be developed in the first year of the project period in 
consultation with the NIDRR-funded Disability Rehabilitation Research 
Project, Center on Knowledge Translation for Technology Transfer.
    In addition, under each priority, 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;
     Evaluate the efficacy and safety of its new products, 
instrumentation, or assistive devices;
     Provide as part of its proposal, and then implement, a 
plan that describes how it will include, as appropriate, individuals 
with disabilities or their representatives in all phases of its 
activities, including research, development, training, dissemination, 
and evaluation;
     Provide as part of its proposal, and then implement, in 
consultation with the NIDRR-funded National Center for the 
Dissemination of Disability Research (NCDDR), a plan to disseminate its 
research results to individuals with disabilities, their 
representatives, disability organizations, service providers, 
professional journals, manufacturers, and other interested parties;
     Conduct a state-of-the-science conference on its 
designated priority research area in the fourth year of the project 
period, and publish a comprehensive report on the final outcomes of the 
conference in the fifth year of the project period; and
     Coordinate research projects with other relevant projects, 
including NIDRR-funded projects, as identified through consultation 
with the NIDRR project officer.

Types of Priorities

    When inviting applications for a competition using one or more 
priorities, we designate the type of each priority as absolute, 
competitive preference, or invitational through a notice in the Federal 
Register. 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 (1) 
awarding additional points, depending on the extent to which the 
application meets the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i)); or (2) 
selecting an application that meets the 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 priority. 
However, we do not give an application that meets the priority a 
preference over other applications (34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use these priorities, we invite applications 
through a notice in the Federal Register.

    Executive Order 12866: This notice 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 final regulatory 
action.
    The potential costs associated with this final regulatory action 
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 final regulatory action, we have determined 
that the benefits of the final priorities justify the costs.
    We have determined, also, that this final regulatory action does 
not unduly interfere with State, local, and tribal governments in the 
exercise of their governmental functions.

[[Page 37201]]

Summary of Potential Costs and Benefits

    The benefits of the RRTC and RERC programs have been well 
established over the years in that other RRTC and RERC projects have 
been completed successfully. The priorities announced in this notice 
will generate new knowledge through research, dissemination, 
utilization, and technical assistance.
    Another benefit of these final priorities is that establishing new 
RRTCs and RERCs will improve the lives of individuals with 
disabilities. These new RRTCs and RERCs will generate, disseminate, and 
promote the use of new information that will improve the options for 
individuals with disabilities to achieve improved education, 
employment, and independent living outcomes.
    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this 
document in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, 
audiotape, or computer diskette) by contacting the Grants and Contracts 
Services Team, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., 
room 5075, Potomac Center Plaza, Washington, DC 20202-2550. Telephone: 
(202) 245-7363. If you use a TDD, call the FRS, toll free, at 1-800-
877-8339.
    Electronic Access to This Document: You can view this document, as 
well as all other documents of this Department 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 1-888-293-6498; 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.

    Delegation of Authority: The Secretary of Education has delegated 
authority to Andrew J. Pepin, Executive Administrator for the Office of 
Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, to perform the functions 
of the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services.

    Dated: July 23, 2009.
Andrew J. Pepin,
Executive Administrator for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services.
[FR Doc. E9-17924 Filed 7-27-09; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4000-01-P