FR Doc 2010-14987
[Federal Register: June 21, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 118)]
[Notices]               
[Page 34997-35000]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr21jn10-55]                              

Download: download files

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

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)--
Employment Outcomes for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

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

ACTION: Notice of final priority.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.133B-6.


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 
Employment Outcomes for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired. 
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 July 21, 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 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

[[Page 34998]]

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 March 26, 2010 (75 FR 14585). That notice 
contained background information and our reasons for proposing the 
particular priority.
    There are two 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, four 
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 proposed that the RRTC conduct research on, 
and provide training and technical assistance to, the Randolph-Sheppard 
program.
    Discussion: Although the Randolph-Sheppard program is not 
explicitly mentioned in the priority, nothing would preclude applicants 
from conducting research on, or providing training and technical 
assistance to, individuals associated with that program. However, NIDRR 
does not have a sufficient basis for requiring all applicants to do so.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter noted that many current practices to improve 
employment outcomes for individuals who are blind or visually impaired 
are not widely known or easily identified. This commenter suggested 
that the Center should engage in survey data collection or interviews 
with rehabilitation providers to comprehensively identify ongoing 
practices and interventions for this population. The commenter noted 
that this comprehensive identification of current practices will serve 
as a resource to service providers, and provide a list of practices 
that can be evaluated. Therefore, this commenter suggested that NIDRR 
consider adding ``identifying'' to paragraph (a) of the priority as 
part of the process for ``evaluating practices currently in use.''
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that a comprehensive list of current 
practices or interventions that are designed to facilitate competitive 
employment outcomes for individuals who are blind or visually impaired 
may be useful to service providers and researchers. However, a 
comprehensive list of such practices and interventions is not a 
necessary step toward the development of evidence for particular 
practices or interventions. If applicants choose to conduct research 
that involves evaluating practices that are currently in use, they are 
free either to identify and justify such practices in their proposals 
or to specify a process by which they will identify these practices 
prior to evaluation. The peer review process will determine the merits 
of each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether this RRTC must use randomized 
control trials to evaluate the effectiveness of new interventions or 
practices on employment.
    Discussion: The priority does not require that the RRTC employ 
randomized control trial research designs to evaluate the effectiveness 
of interventions or practices. NIDRR believes that randomized control 
trial research designs can be appropriate for research that involves 
evaluating specific interventions. However, in complex service delivery 
settings, other scientifically rigorous research designs may be more 
appropriate or feasible. Therefore, the choice of research design is 
left to the applicant. The peer review process will determine the 
merits of each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether NIDRR intends that evaluations 
of practices or interventions only include participants who are legally 
blind.
    Discussion: For the purposes of this priority, NIDRR has defined 
the target population--individuals who are blind or visually impaired--
as individuals who have ``central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in 
the better eye with the use of a correcting lens. An eye which is 
accompanied by a limitation in the fields of vision such that the 
widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 
20 degrees shall be considered for purposes of this paragraph as having 
a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less'' (42 U.S.C. 416(i)(1)(B)); 
NIDRR includes this definition in the opening paragraph of this 
priority. Within the constraints of this definition, applicants have 
the flexibility to specify their target population for the purposes of 
their proposed projects.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that research is needed to develop 
and evaluate new interventions and practices and to evaluate practices 
that are currently in use. This commenter suggested that research 
conducted under paragraphs (a) and (b) of the priority should include 
the development and evaluation of new interventions and practices as 
well as the evaluation of practices that are currently in use.
    Discussion: The priority states that the RRTC must develop and 
evaluate new practices, or evaluate practices currently in use, or 
conduct both kinds of research. NIDRR does not require an applicant to 
conduct both types of research, because such a requirement may reduce 
the resources that are available to fulfill other requirements of the 
RRTC. NIDRR seeks to maintain flexibility to allow a range of viable 
options for generating new knowledge about practices or interventions 
that can help improve the employment outcomes of individuals with 
disabilities.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the RRTC should build upon 
research that demonstrates effective employment practices for other 
populations by modifying and evaluating those practices for individuals 
who are blind or visually impaired.
    Discussion: Modifying and evaluating employment practices that have 
been found to be effective for other populations is one option for 
identifying interventions and practices for individuals who are blind 
or visually impaired, as required under paragraph (a) of the priority. 
However, NIDRR does not have a sufficient basis for requiring that all 
applicants take this approach. NIDRR does not wish to preclude 
applicants from using other viable methods or approaches for 
determining practices and interventions for further evaluation.
    Changes: None.

[[Page 34999]]

    Comment: One commenter noted that a large majority of young 
individuals who are blind or have low vision also have other 
potentially disabling conditions and that the RRTC should be required 
to conduct research on more than one at-risk subgroup under paragraph 
(b) of the priority.
    Discussion: The priority requires applicants to propose research 
with at least one at-risk subgroup. Applicants are free to propose 
research with more than one at-risk group. However, given the limited 
resources of the RRTC, NIDRR does not want to require applicants to 
conduct research on more than one at-risk subgroup.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the list of possible 
collaborators in paragraph (c) of the priority be modified to include 
nongovernmental or nonprofit organizations whose missions focus on 
improving social and vocational integration for people with visual 
impairments.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that relevant nongovernmental or nonprofit 
organizations could be appropriate collaborators under paragraph (c) of 
the priority.
    Changes: NIDRR has revised paragraph (c)(1) to add relevant 
nongovernmental or nonprofit organizations to the list of examples of 
potential collaborators.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the requirement for training 
and dissemination activities to facilitate the utilization of research 
findings in employment and vocational rehabilitation (VR) settings in 
paragraph (c)(2) of the priority be amended to include conducting such 
activities to facilitate the use of research findings in educational 
settings.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees that knowledge of practices that increase 
competitive employment for individuals who are blind or visually 
impaired would be beneficial in educational settings.
    Changes: NIDRR has amended paragraph (c)(2) of the priority to 
specify educational settings as a setting for training and 
dissemination efforts.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority require a 
significant portion of dissemination activities to be conducted via the 
Internet and be made available without charge.
    Discussion: Disseminating information via the Internet is one 
option for fulfilling the dissemination requirement of this priority. 
However, NIDRR does not believe it is appropriate to require that all 
applicants engage in or prioritize disseminating information via the 
Internet. While NIDRR encourages applicants to use dissemination 
strategies that are accessible and that reach large numbers of 
individuals, NIDRR does not want to preclude applicants from using 
other viable methods or approaches to disseminate the results of their 
research. Therefore, the choice of dissemination strategy is left to 
the applicant. The peer review process will determine the merits of 
each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority require research 
on the extent to which technology availability, accessibility, and 
usability have an impact on employment outcomes for individuals who are 
blind or visually impaired.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority precludes applicants from 
proposing to conduct research on the effects of technology on 
employment outcomes for this population. However, NIDRR does not 
require all applicants to focus on this factor because we do not want 
to preclude applicants from proposing research on other promising 
practices and interventions. The choice of practices or interventions 
to be evaluated under paragraphs (a) and (b) of the priority is left to 
the applicant. The peer review process will determine the merits of 
each proposal.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that NIDRR expand the focus of the 
priority to include not only research on employment outcomes but also 
outcomes related to economic self-sufficiency.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority precludes an applicant from 
investigating the effects of practices or interventions on economic 
self-sufficiency, in addition to their effects on competitive 
employment outcomes. However, NIDRR does not have a sufficient basis 
for requiring all applicants to do so. Given the limited resources for 
research in this area, NIDRR does not want to preclude applicants from 
proposing research topics and methods that focus specifically on 
promoting employment outcomes for the target population.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested inserting ``self-employment'' 
outcomes wherever competitive employment outcomes are mentioned in the 
priority.
    Discussion: The focus of this priority is on competitive employment 
outcomes. Nothing in the priority precludes an applicant from proposing 
that employment outcomes include self-employment. However, NIDRR does 
not have a sufficient basis for requiring all applicants to do so.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the goal of paragraph (c) of 
the priority be expanded beyond increased incorporation of research 
findings into practice and policy to include an exploration of policy 
and system changes related to section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards 
Act and the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act (JWOD).
    Discussion: It is not the intent of paragraph (c) of this priority 
to specify research related to specific policies or statutory 
requirements. Applicants may wish to propose such research or 
evaluation activities under paragraphs (a) and (b) of the priority, if 
applicable.
    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 Employment Outcomes for Individuals Who are 
Blind or Visually Impaired. This RRTC must conduct research that 
contributes to improving competitive employment outcomes for 
individuals who are blind or visually impaired, consistent with the 
individual's informed choice and abilities (see section 100(a)(2)(B) of 
title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended). For the 
purposes of this priority, this population is defined as individuals 
who have ``central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye 
with the use of a correcting lens. An eye which is accompanied by a 
limitation in the fields of vision such that the widest diameter of the 
visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees shall be 
considered for purposes of this paragraph as having a central visual 
acuity of 20/200 or less'' (42 U.S.C. 416(i)(1)(B)). Under this 
priority, the RRTC must contribute to the following outcomes:
    (a) Evidence-based interventions and practices designed to 
facilitate competitive employment outcomes for individuals who are 
blind or visually impaired. The RRTC must contribute to this outcome by 
developing and evaluating new interventions and practices, evaluating 
practices currently in use, or by conducting both of these types of 
research.
    (b) New knowledge about employment interventions and practices for 
individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and who are also at 
greater risk for poor employment outcomes due to other individual 
characteristics (e.g., individuals with more severe vision loss or 
individuals with multiple disabilities). The RRTC must contribute to 
this outcome by conducting research

[[Page 35000]]

with at least one at-risk group (as described earlier in this 
paragraph) to: Develop and evaluate new interventions or practices, 
evaluate practices currently being used with members of the at-risk 
group, or by conducting both of these types of research. Applicants 
must identify the specific at-risk group or groups they propose to 
study, provide evidence that the selected population or populations 
are, in fact, at greater risk for poor employment outcomes, and explain 
how the proposed interventions and practices are expected to address 
the needs of the population or populations.
    (c) Increased incorporation of research findings into practice and 
policy. The RRTC must contribute to this outcome by:
    (1) Collaborating with providers of vocational rehabilitation (VR) 
services, employer groups, and stakeholders (e.g., individuals who are 
blind or visually impaired, consumer groups, or relevant 
nongovernmental or nonprofit organizations) in conducting the work of 
the RRTC; and
    (2) Conducting training and dissemination activities to facilitate 
the utilization of research findings in employment, educational, and VR 
settings.
    (d) In addition, through coordination with the NIDRR Project 
Officer, this RRTC must collaborate with:
    (1) Appropriate NIDRR-funded grantees, including knowledge 
translation grantees; and
    (2) Relevant Office of Special Education Programs and 
Rehabilitation Services Administration grantees.

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 Program have been well established over the years in that 
similar projects have been completed successfully. This final priority 
will generate new knowledge and technologies through research, 
development, dissemination, utilization, and technical assistance 
projects.
    Another benefit of this final priority is that the establishment of 
a new RRTC will support and will improve the lives of individuals with 
disabilities. The new RRTC will generate, 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: June 10, 2010.
Alexa Posny,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 2010-14987 Filed 6-18-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P