FR Doc 2010-14126
[Federal Register: June 11, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 112)]
[Notices]               
[Page 33281-33285]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr11jn10-46]                                  

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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Numbers: 84.133E-1 and 
84.133E-3

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

ACTION: Notice of final priorities for two RERCs.

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services announces two priorities for the Disability and 
Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program administered by 
NIDRR. Specifically, this notice announces two priorities for RERCs: 
Universal Design in the Built Environment and Technologies for Children 
with Orthopedic Disabilities. The Assistant Secretary may use these 
priorities 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 these priorities to improve rehabilitation services and 
outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

DATES: Effective Date: The priorities are effective July 12, 2010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marlene Spencer, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 5133, Potomac Center Plaza 
(PCP), Washington, DC 20202-2700. Telephone: (202) 245-7532 or by e-
mail: marlene.spencer@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 priorities (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 two priorities that NIDRR intends to 
use for RERC competitions in FY 2010 and possibly later years. However, 
nothing precludes NIDRR from publishing additional priorities, if 
needed. Furthermore, NIDRR is under no obligation to make awards for 
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 (Rehabilitation Act).

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers Program (RERCs)

    The purpose of the RERC program is to improve the effectiveness of 
services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act by conducting advanced 
engineering research and development on innovative technologies that 
are designed to solve particular rehabilitation problems, or to remove 
environmental barriers. RERCs also demonstrate and evaluate such 
technologies, facilitate service delivery system changes, stimulate the

[[Page 33282]]

production and distribution of new technologies and equipment in the 
private sector, and provide training opportunities.

General Requirements of RERCs

    RERCs carry out research or demonstration activities in support of 
the Rehabilitation Act by--
     Developing and disseminating innovative methods of 
applying advanced technology, scientific achievement, and psychological 
and social knowledge: (a) To solve rehabilitation problems and to 
remove environmental barriers; and (b) to 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 (UD) in 
its product research and development. UD 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 RERC program can be found at: 
http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/index.html.
    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 762(g) and 764(a).
    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.
    We published a notice of proposed priorities (NPP) for NIDRR's 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers Program in the Federal 
Register on April 9, 2010 (75 FR 18185). The NPP included two 
background statements that described our rationale for the priorities 
proposed in that notice.
    There are no differences between the NPP and this NFP as discussed 
in the following section.
    Public Comment: In response to our invitation in the NPP, five 
parties submitted comments on the proposed priorities. 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

    General Comment: In reference to both RERC priorities in this 
notice, one commenter asked whether NIDRR would allow centers to 
support undergraduate and graduate students as support staff and to 
build those students' capacity to engage in future rehabilitation 
research and development.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority precludes applicants from 
proposing to use students as support staff.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether NIDRR would allow knowledge 
transfer to a foreign company, as long as that company meets the needs 
of U.S. citizens with disabilities.
    Discussion: Nothing in these priorities restricts the transfer of 
technologies to companies outside of the U.S.
    Changes: None.

Proposed Priority 1--Universal Design in the Built Environment

    Comment: One commenter discussed the relationship between UD and 
industrial design and asked whether applicants could propose activities 
that involve industrial design departments or schools.
    Discussion: Applicants are free to propose work that involves 
industrial design departments or schools to meet the requirements of 
this priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested that NIDRR revise the second 
sentence of this priority to emphasize UD applications in buildings and 
facilities that are used by the public.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority precludes applicants from 
proposing projects that emphasize buildings and facilities that are 
used by the public. However, NIDRR does not wish to preclude applicants 
from proposing promising research and development projects that 
emphasize UD in other important areas of the built environment and 
therefore declines to make the change suggested by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters noted that this priority should emphasize 
the need for greater accessibility in single family dwellings.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority precludes applicants from 
proposing projects that emphasize the importance of accessibility in 
single family dwellings. However, NIDRR does not believe it is 
appropriate to require all applicants to do so because it does not wish 
to preclude applicants from proposing promising research and 
development projects that focus on other categories of housing.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the RERC funded under this 
priority be required to utilize a large sample of end users to validate 
all emerging standards and guidelines for UD to help ensure that such 
standards and guidelines are developed with, not just for, people with 
disabilities.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that it is important to involve 
individuals with disabilities in their research and development 
projects. This priority requires all RERCs to implement a plan that 
describes how they will include individuals with disabilities in all 
phases of its activities. Nothing in the priority precludes applicants 
from proposing to use a large sample of end users to validate UD 
standards and guidelines that emerge from the RERC. However, NIDRR does 
not believe it is appropriate to require all applicants to do so 
because NIDRR does not wish to preclude other valid and innovative 
means of fulfilling this requirement or of including individuals with 
disabilities in the activities of the RERC funded under this priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR revise the priority to 
require the RERC to produce ``environmentally, economically, and 
socially sustainable'' UD exemplars, instead of ``economically viable'' 
UD exemplars.
    Discussion: Engineers, designers, and manufacturers have argued 
that UD is costly and complex to implement.

[[Page 33283]]

NIDRR is interested in supporting the production of economically viable 
UD exemplars to demonstrate the feasibility of using UD applications in 
real-world settings to facilitate independence and social participation 
among end users. Nothing in the priority precludes applicants from 
including the concept of ``environmentally, economically, and socially 
sustainable'' UD in relation to the economically viable UD exemplars 
that they are required to create under this priority. However, NIDRR 
does not have a sufficient basis for requiring all applicants to design 
their exemplars with these goals in mind.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR be more descriptive in 
requiring the development of evidence-based practices for UD. In this 
context, this commenter suggested that the priority require 
benchmarking, encourage indexing, and focus on ``end user outcomes.''
    Discussion: Applicants are free to choose from among a variety of 
methodologies and approaches, including benchmarking, indexing, and 
focusing on a variety of end user outcomes, to create evidence-based UD 
practices so long as they justify how the selected approach contributes 
to evidence. NIDRR does not believe it is appropriate to limit the 
priority by specifying specific methods for developing evidence-based 
practices for UD. NIDRR does not wish to preclude viable and innovative 
methods for developing evidence-based practices in UD by requiring 
specific methods or approaches.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the requirement for design 
of UD curricula be revised to more clearly distinguish between UD and 
other types of design, including ``accessible design,'' ``inclusive 
design,'' and ``design for all.''
    Discussion: In fulfilling the requirement for the design of UD 
curricula for university-level engineering and design students, 
applicants are free to propose an approach that distinguishes UD from 
other types of design. However, NIDRR does not have a sufficient basis 
for requiring all applicants to follow this approach.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR provide examples of the 
means by which the RERC must assist designers, builders, and 
manufacturers to incorporate UD into their buildings and communities.
    Discussion: The general RERC requirements that are applicable to 
both RERCs in this notice include a number of examples of activities 
that can be used to fulfill this requirement. These activities include 
collaborating with relevant industry and professional associations, 
communicating with manufacturers and other interested parties regarding 
trends and evolving product concepts, and provision of technical 
assistance. Given this specificity in the RERC requirements, and 
NIDRR's wish to enhance competition by allowing a wide range of 
potential approaches to this requirement, we do not have a sufficient 
basis for further specifying the means by which the RERC must assist 
designers, builders, and manufacturers to incorporate UD into their 
buildings and communities.
    Changes: None.

Proposed Priority 2--Technologies for Children With Orthopedic 
Disabilities

    Comment: One commenter asked whether applicants can propose to 
include children whose disabilities resemble those mentioned in the 
NPP, but that are not specifically listed.
    Discussion: The Department bases the term orthopedic disability on 
the definition of the term orthopedic impairment in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(8). 
Under this definition, an orthopedic impairment means a severe 
orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's performance. As 
noted in the background statement for this priority in the NPP, the 
term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments 
caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and 
impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and 
fractures or burns that cause contractures). This list is not intended 
to be exhaustive. Applicants have the flexibility to specify their 
target population for the purposes of their proposed projects, provided 
that the target population has a ``severe orthopedic impairment that 
adversely affects a child's performance.''
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether language and cognition issues 
can serve as the focus of this RERC if they are present in children 
with orthopedic disabilities. This commenter also asked whether these 
issues could be addressed if an applicant made the case that they were 
important in combination with physical impairments.
    Discussion: According to the priority, the work of this RERC must 
focus on innovative technologies and new knowledge that will improve 
the lives of children with orthopedic disabilities. The priority 
specifies that the RERC must contribute to the improvement of mobility 
and manipulation functions among children with orthopedic disabilities 
as they perform daily tasks and activities at home, at school, and in 
the community. At the same time, nothing in the priority precludes 
applicants from proposing research and development that also addresses 
outcomes other than mobility and manipulation.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether applicants can utilize 
``surrogates'' of children with orthopedic disabilities to serve on the 
RERC in an advisory capacity, because children typically do not serve 
on advisory committees and cannot be employed by the RERC.
    Discussion: Yes, representatives of children with orthopedic 
disabilities may serve on the RERC in an advisory capacity. The RERC is 
required to propose and implement a plan for the inclusion of 
individuals with disabilities or their representatives in all phases of 
its activities, including research, development, training, 
dissemination, and evaluation.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR remove the term 
``assistive devices'' from the third sentence of this priority, noting 
that the term suggests a focus that is limited only to wheelchairs and 
prostheses.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority or in the term ``assistive 
devices'' limits applicants to a focus on wheelchairs or prostheses. 
Assistive devices, in the context of this priority, are intended to 
refer to a wide range of devices that can be used by children with 
orthopedic disabilities. For this reason, we do not believe a change to 
the priority is necessary.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that this priority should focus on 
longer term outcomes of technology use, such as engagement and 
participation, instead of focusing on improving the availability and 
usability of assistive devices.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority precludes applicants from 
proposing research and development projects that measure the impact of 
technologies and assistive devices on the engagement and participation 
of children with orthopedic disabilities. However, NIDRR believes that 
it is first necessary to improve the availability and usability of 
technologies and assistive devices for this population. Such 
technologies and devices must be available and usable before they can 
be expected to have an

[[Page 33284]]

effect on the engagement and participation of children.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR change the last 
sentence of this priority to require the RERC to ``design, develop, 
implement, and evaluate'' rehabilitation therapy technologies, instead 
of only being required to ``develop, test, and implement'' 
rehabilitation therapy technologies.
    Discussion: NIDRR is interested in the development and 
implementation of rehabilitation therapy technologies for use with 
children with orthopedic disabilities. Prior to implementation, newly 
developed technologies must be tested for usability and effectiveness. 
Nothing in the priority, however, precludes applicants from proposing 
to add a design step prior to the development of rehabilitation 
technologies or from adding an evaluation step following 
implementation. However, NIDRR does not have a sufficient basis for 
further specifying the detailed requirements that the RERC must follow 
to reach its goal of new rehabilitation therapy technologies for use 
among this population.
    Changes: None.

Final Priorities

    This notice contains two final priorities.

Final Priority 1--Universal Design in the Built Environment

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research 
Center (RERC) on Universal Design (UD) in the Built Environment. Under 
this priority, the RERC must research, develop, evaluate, and promote 
UD in commercial and private facilities, outdoor environments, and 
housing. In addition, the RERC must create measurable UD standards and 
guidelines to facilitate the implementation of UD principles, create 
economically viable UD exemplars, aid in the development of evidence-
based practices for UD, and help to design curricula on UD for 
university-level engineering and design students. The RERC must assist 
designers, builders, and manufacturers to incorporate UD into their 
buildings and communities.

Final Priority 2--Technologies for Children With Orthopedic 
Disabilities

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research 
Center (RERC) on Technologies for Children with Orthopedic 
Disabilities. This RERC will focus on innovative technologies and new 
knowledge that will improve the lives of children with orthopedic 
disabilities. Under this priority, the RERC must research, develop, 
apply, and evaluate new or existing technologies and approaches to 
improve the availability and usability of assistive devices for 
children with orthopedic disabilities. This work must contribute to the 
improvement of mobility and manipulation functions among children with 
orthopedic disabilities as they perform daily tasks and activities at 
home, at school, and in the community. In addition, the RERC must 
develop, test, and implement rehabilitation therapy technologies and 
strategies for use with children with orthopedic disabilities.

Requirements Applicable to Both Final Priorities

    The RERC established under each of the final priorities in this 
notice must be designed to contribute to the following outcomes:
    (1) Increased technical and scientific knowledge relevant to its 
designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this 
outcome by conducting high-quality, rigorous research and development 
projects.
    (2) Increased innovation in 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, institutions of 
higher education, health care providers, or educators, as appropriate.
    (4) Improved awareness and understanding of cutting-edge 
developments in technologies within its designated priority research 
area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by identifying and 
communicating with NIDRR, individuals with disabilities, their 
representatives, disability organizations, service providers, 
professional journals, manufacturers, and other interested parties 
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 relevant public and private organizations, 
individuals with disabilities, employers, and schools 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 technology transfer and knowledge translation 
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, 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 of mutual interest with 
relevant 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:

[[Page 33285]]

    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 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 regulatory action.
    The potential costs associated with this 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 regulatory action, we have determined that the 
benefits of the final priorities 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. These final priorities will generate new 
knowledge through research and development. Another benefit of these 
final priorities is that the establishment of new RERCs will improve 
the lives of individuals with disabilities. The new RERCs will 
generate, disseminate, and promote the use of new information that will 
improve the options for individuals with disabilities to fully 
participate in their communities.
    Intergovernmental Review: This program is not subject to Executive 
Order 12372 and the regulations in 34 CFR part 79.
    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.

    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: June 8, 2010.
Alexa Posny,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 2010-14126 Filed 6-10-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P