FR Doc 2010-11877
[Federal Register: May 18, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 95)]
[Notices]               
[Page 27741-27743]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr18my10-41]                                 

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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); Employer 
Practices Related to Employment Outcomes Among Individuals With 
Disabilities

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.133B-3.

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 
Employer Practices Related to Employment Outcomes 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 
this priority to improve rehabilitation services and outcomes for 
individuals with disabilities.

DATES: Effective Date: This priority is effective June 17, 2010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn Medley, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Room 5140, PCP, Washington, DC 
20202. Telephone: (202) 245-7338 or by e-mail: Lynn.Medley@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

[[Page 27742]]

     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 January 14, 2010 (75 FR 2119). The NPP included 
a background statement that described our rationale for the priority 
proposed in that notice.
    There are 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 suggested that employment research should 
not focus solely on employer practices but should also examine barriers 
to employment at the system and consumer levels.
    Discussion: NIDRR acknowledges the importance of conducting 
research on the system- and consumer-level barriers to the employment 
of individuals with disabilities. However, in establishing the scope of 
this priority, NIDRR considered the broad employment-related goals of 
the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and the 
state of the science on employer practices related to individuals with 
disabilities (summarized in the Notice of Proposed Priority published 
in the Federal Register on January 14, 2010 (75 FR 2119-2122)). Based 
on these inputs, NIDRR concluded that this priority should be directed 
to research on specific employer practices towards hiring, retaining, 
and advancing individuals with disabilities and the relationship 
between different practices and employment outcomes for individuals 
with disabilities.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter pointed out that research alone is not 
sufficient to improve employer practices that affect individuals with 
disabilities. The commenter stated that research in this area must be 
translated and implemented in the field of practice, and that, for the 
employer practices to be effective, they must benefit both employers 
and employees.
    Discussion: NIDRR acknowledges the importance of translating 
research results into practice. Paragraph (c) of the priority requires 
the grantee to conduct training and dissemination activities to 
facilitate the utilization of research findings in employment settings. 
We believe that these requirements will help ensure that research 
results are disseminated and available to employers, vocational 
rehabilitation (VR) practitioners, and policy makers. Grantees also 
must collaborate with employers in developing, implementing, and 
evaluating intervention strategies. We believe that this requirement 
will help ensure that employers can provide feedback to the grantee on 
how practices can be implemented to benefit them as well as employees.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the unit of analysis focus on 
changes in policies at the State level rather than the employer or 
individual level. The commenter noted that this level of analysis would 
facilitate the identification of the effects of system-level variables 
on employment outcomes.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority precludes the examination of 
State-level data. However, the focus of the priority, as reflected in 
paragraphs (a) and (b), is on employer practices and the relationship 
between those practices and employment outcomes. Therefore, an 
applicant can propose to analyze State-level data provided that it also 
meets the requirements reflected in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the 
priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that applicants study factors 
other than employer practices that may affect the employment of 
individuals with disabilities.
    Discussion: Paragraph (a) of the proposed priority requires that 
the RRTC conduct research to determine the extent to which employer 
practices are associated with factors that include but are not limited 
to employer size, geographic regions, sector of industry or the economy 
(e.g., private sector, public sector, goods-producing, service-
producing), employer preconceptions, and experience working with VR 
agencies. However, in the proposed priority, we inadvertently neglected 
to specify how research using these factors should be conducted and 
will change paragraph (a) in the priority to make this clear.
    Changes: NIDRR has revised the wording of the last sentence in 
paragraph (a) of the priority to clarify that the RRTC must conduct 
research to determine the extent to which the specific employer 
practices examined by the RRTC are associated with such factors as 
employer size, geographic regions, sector of industry or the economy 
(e.g., private sector, public sector, goods-producing, service-
producing), employer preconceptions, and experience working with VR 
agencies.
    Final Priority:
    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation Research and 
Training Center (RRTC) on Employer Practices Related to Employment 
Outcomes Among Individuals with Disabilities. This RRTC must conduct 
research that contributes to our knowledge about the differences that 
exist in employer practices towards hiring individuals with 
disabilities and the relationship between different practices and 
employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. This new 
knowledge will contribute to more targeted interventions to improve 
employer practices related to the employment of individuals with 
disabilities. Under this priority, the RRTC must contribute to the 
following outcomes:
    (a) New knowledge of specific employer practices most strongly 
associated with desired employment outcomes for individuals with 
disabilities and the prevalence of these practices. The RRTC must 
contribute to this outcome by identifying and categorizing employer 
practices related to the hiring, retention, and advancement of 
individuals with disabilities and conducting research on the extent to 
which employers engage in specific practices that have been found in 
relevant research to promote positive employment outcomes for 
individuals with disabilities. The RRTC must also conduct research to 
determine the extent to which these employer practices are associated 
with factors that include, but are not limited to: Employer size, 
geographic regions, sector of industry or the economy (e.g., private 
sector, public sector, goods-producing, service producing), employer 
preconceptions, and

[[Page 27743]]

experience working with vocational rehabilitation agencies.
    (b) Increased knowledge about how these practices relate to 
employer success in hiring, retention, and promotion of individuals 
with disabilities. Applicants must propose strategies to collect 
information about these practices and outcomes directly from employers, 
taking into account that it can be difficult to collect information 
about employer practices and outcomes. In addition, applicants are 
encouraged to use existing databases such as those maintained by the 
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Small Business 
Administration, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and 
disability insurance providers.
    (c) Increased incorporation of findings into practice and policy. 
The RRTC must contribute to this outcome by:
    (1) Collaborating with employer groups to develop, evaluate, or 
implement strategies to increase utilization of positive practices 
identified by the RRTC.
    (2) Conducting training and dissemination activities to facilitate 
the utilization of research findings in employment and policy settings.
    In addition, this RRTC must collaborate with:
    (1) Relevant Rehabilitation Services Administration grantees, such 
as the 10 regional Technical Assistance and Continuing Education 
projects.
    (2) Relevant grantees and programs in the Department of Labor, 
including the Office of Disability Employment Policy's National 
Technical Assistance, Policy, and Research Center for Employers.
    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 advance research to 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: May 13, 2010.
Alexa Posny,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 2010-11877 Filed 5-17-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P