FR Doc 2010-9506
[Federal Register: April 23, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 78)]
[Notices]               
[Page 21278-21280]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr23ap10-55]                              

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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)--
Individual-Level Characteristics Related to Employment Among 
Individuals With Disabilities

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.133B-1.

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

ACTION: Notice of final priority.

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services announces a priority for the Disability and 
Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program administered by 
NIDRR. Specifically, this notice announces a priority for an RRTC on 
Individual-Level Characteristics Related to Employment Among 
Individuals with Disabilities. The Assistant Secretary may use this 
priority for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2010 and later years. We 
take this action to focus research attention on areas of national need. 
We intend for this priority to improve rehabilitation services and 
outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

DATES: Effective Date: This priority is effective May 24, 2010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donna Nangle, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 5142, Potomac Center Plaza 
(PCP), 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 notice of final priority 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.
    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.

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 notice of 
final priorities in the Federal Register on February 1, 2008 (73 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;
     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.
    Applicants for RRTC grants must also demonstrate in their 
applications how they will address, in whole or in part, the needs of 
individuals with disabilities from minority backgrounds.
    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 762(g) and 764(b)(2).
    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.
    We published a notice of proposed priority (NPP) for NIDRR's 
Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program in 
the Federal Register on December 18, 2009 (74 FR 67186). The NPP 
included a background statement that described our rationale for the 
priority proposed in that notice.
    There are no differences between the NPP and this notice of final 
priority (NFP) as discussed in the following section.
    Public Comment: In response to our invitation in the NPP, three 
parties submitted comments on the proposed priority. An analysis of the 
comments and of any changes in the priority since publication of the 
NPP follows.
    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 concerns not directly related to the proposed 
priority.

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    Comment: One commenter recommended that NIDRR award grants to 
applicants who propose research that will contribute to the improvement 
of rehabilitation programs for underserved populations. This commenter 
also suggested that NIDRR select applicants who clearly identify robust 
methods for research and practice.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that the research funded under this 
priority should contribute to improved employment practices for 
underserved populations. We have structured the requirements of this 
priority with the aim of identifying individuals with disabilities who 
are at risk for poor employment outcomes and generating new knowledge 
that can be used to

[[Page 21279]]

improve their outcomes. Some individuals with disabilities who are at 
risk for poor employment outcomes will undoubtedly have been 
individuals who were underserved. Activities under paragraph (b) of the 
priority are intended to generate new knowledge about the populations 
of individuals with disabilities who have the poorest employment 
outcomes. Activities under paragraph (c) of the priority, in 
particular, are intended to generate new knowledge about the barriers 
to, and facilitators of, employment experienced by these 
subpopulations, and activities under paragraph (d) are intended to 
promote the incorporation of these research findings into practice or 
policy.
    NIDRR also agrees that robust methods for research in this area are 
critical. The peer review process will determine the merits of each 
proposal and will take into consideration the applicant's proposed 
research methods.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the priority should include a 
focus on best practices for assisting individuals with disabilities to 
transition from school to employment.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that identifying effective practices to 
improve the transition from school to employment for individuals with 
disabilities is an important area for research. However, this priority 
was developed to generate broad knowledge about employment outcomes 
among a variety of subpopulations of individuals with disabilities. It 
is not the purpose of this priority to focus on the transition from 
school to employment, in particular, or on transition-age youth with 
disabilities. That said, research conducted under paragraphs (a) and 
(b) of the priority may demonstrate that transition-age youth have poor 
employment outcomes relative to other subpopulations and therefore 
require greater research attention. Thus, while NIDRR declines to 
require all applicants to focus on transition-age youth with 
disabilities, it is possible for an applicant's proposal to include 
such a focus. The peer review process will determine the merits of each 
proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the priority focus on the 
interactions between the person and the environment that lead to 
employment outcomes and that the title of the priority be changed to 
reflect this focus.
    Discussion: Paragraph (c) of the priority requires the RRTC to 
investigate barriers to, and facilitators of, employment for 
subpopulations of individuals who are at risk for poor employment 
outcomes. Barriers to, and facilitators of, employment are likely to be 
found at both the individual level and in the environment. Paragraph 
(c) of the priority provides examples of environmental-level barriers 
to, and facilitators of, employment, such as availability of 
transportation, social support, and employer practices. Nothing in this 
priority precludes applicants from proposing methods for gathering and 
analyzing data in ways that emphasize how experiences of environmental 
factors at the individual level influence employment opportunities and 
outcomes. However, NIDRR's focus in this priority is on individual-
level characteristics related to employment of individuals with 
disabilities, which is a broader focus than simply examining the 
interactions between the person and the environment. Therefore, NIDRR 
declines to change the title as suggested by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority include a focus 
on the effects of community-level factors that affect employment 
outcomes for individuals with disabilities, including research on 
community-level interventions.
    Discussion: The priority requires the RRTC to collect and analyze 
individual-level data about barriers to, and facilitators of, 
employment for individuals at risk for poor employment outcomes. 
Nothing in the priority precludes collection of data about community-
level barriers to, or facilitators of, employment experienced by 
individuals with disabilities.
    Changes: None.

Final Priority

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation Research and 
Training Center (RRTC) on Individual-Level Characteristics Related to 
Employment Among Individuals with Disabilities. This RRTC must identify 
subpopulations of individuals with disabilities who are at risk of poor 
employment outcomes, and document the barriers to, and facilitators of, 
employment that these subgroups experience. This new knowledge is 
intended to serve as a foundation for future interventions research 
that will target those who are most at risk of poor employment 
outcomes. The RRTC must be designed to contribute to the following 
outcomes:
    (a) A synthesis of available knowledge about employment disparities 
among subpopulations of individuals with disabilities. The RRTC must 
contribute to this outcome by conducting a review and synthesis of 
existing research on individual-level characteristics related to 
successful and poor employment outcomes among individuals with 
disabilities. Such individual-level characteristics may include, but 
are not limited to, the following: Disabling condition, severity of 
disability, age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, 
education level, and urban/rural status. Successful and poor employment 
outcomes may be measured by the following indicators: An individual's 
employment status (e.g., employed, unemployed, underemployed), income, 
and job retention or promotion. The RRTC must complete this activity by 
the end of the first year of the grant.
    (b) New knowledge about the individual-level characteristics that 
are most strongly associated with employment-related outcome variables 
among individuals with disabilities. The RRTC must contribute to this 
outcome by conducting research on the extent to which employment of 
individuals with disabilities is related to individual-level 
characteristics. This research must include, but is not limited to, 
multivariate analyses of existing national datasets. Analyses of 
existing data must examine possible variations of employment, including 
full- or part-time work, self-employment, and industry sector. The RRTC 
must complete this activity by the end of the second year of the grant.
    (c) New knowledge of the employment experiences of individuals who 
are at risk of poor employment outcomes. The RRTC must contribute to 
this outcome by collecting and analyzing information from members of 
subpopulations identified under paragraphs (a) and (b) of this 
priority. The RRTC must collect individual-level data about the 
barriers to, and facilitators of, employment that members of these 
subpopulations have experienced (e.g., the availability of 
transportation to and from work, social support, workplace 
accommodations, and employer practices).
    (d) Increased incorporation of disability and employment research 
findings into practice or policy. The RRTC must contribute to this 
outcome by:
    (1) Collaborating with stakeholder groups to develop, evaluate, or 
implement strategies to promote utilization of the RRTC's research 
findings.
    (2) Conducting training and dissemination activities to facilitate 
the utilization of the RRTC's research findings by individuals with 
disabilities, employers, policymakers,

[[Page 21280]]

and State vocational rehabilitation agencies.
    In addition, this RRTC must collaborate with relevant 
Rehabilitation Services Administration grantees, such as the 10 
regional Technical Assistance and Continuing Education projects.

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)).
    This notice does not preclude us from proposing additional 
priorities, requirements, definitions, or selection criteria, subject 
to meeting applicable rulemaking requirements.

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use this priority, 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 priority justify the costs.

Discussion of Costs and Benefits

    The benefits of the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects 
and Centers Programs have been well established over the years in that 
similar projects have been completed successfully. This final priority 
will generate new knowledge through research and development.
    Another benefit of this final priority is that the establishment of 
a new RRTC will improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. The 
new RRTC will disseminate and promote the use of new information that 
will improve the options for individuals with disabilities to obtain, 
retain, and advance in employment.
    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, PCP, 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.

    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.


    Dated: April 20, 2010.
Alexa Posny,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 2010-9506 Filed 4-22-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P