[Federal Register: March 25, 1996 (Volume 61, Number 58)]
[Page 12066-12068]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]


National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of Proposed Funding Priority for Fiscal Years 1996-1997 
for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center.


SUMMARY: The Secretary proposes a funding priority for a new 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) under the National 
Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) for fiscal 
years l996-1997. The Secretary takes this action to focus research 
attention on areas of national need. This priority is intended to 
improve rehabilitation services and outcomes for individuals with 

DATES: Comments must be received on or before April 24, 1996.

ADDRESSES: All comments concerning this proposed priority should be 
addressed to David Esquith, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland 
Avenue, S.W., Switzer Building, Room 3424, Washington, D.C. 20202-2601.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Esquith. Telephone: (202) 205-
8801. Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD) may call the TDD number at (202) 205-5516. Internet: 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice contains a proposed priority 
under the RERC program for research on technology for older persons 
with disabilities.
    Authority for the RERC program of NIDRR is contained in section 
204(b)(3) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. 760-
762). Under this program the Secretary makes awards to public and 
private agencies and organizations, including institutions of higher 
education, Indian tribes, and tribal organizations, to conduct 
research, demonstration, and training activities regarding 
rehabilitation technology in order to enhance opportunities for meeting 
the needs of, and addressing the barriers confronted by, individuals 
with disabilities in all aspects of their lives. An RERC must be 
operated by or in collaboration with an institution of higher education 
or a nonprofit organization.
    This proposed priority supports the National Education Goal that 
calls for every adult American to possess the skills necessary to 
compete in a global economy.
    Under the regulations for this program (see 34 CFR 353.32) the 
Secretary may establish research priorities by reserving funds to 
support particular research activities.
    The Secretary will announce the final priority in a notice in the 
Federal Register. The final priority will be determined by responses to 
this notice, available funds, and other considerations of the 
Department. Funding of a particular project depends on the final 
priority, the availability of funds, and the quality of the 
applications received. The publication of this proposed priority does 
not preclude the Secretary from proposing additional priorities, nor 
does it limit the Secretary to funding only this priority, subject to 
meeting applicable rulemaking requirements.

    Note: This notice of proposed priority does not solicit 
applications. A notice inviting applications under this competition 
will be published in the Federal Register concurrent with or 
following the notice of final priority.

Description of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center Program

    RERCs carry out research or demonstration activities by: (1) 
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 new or emerging technologies, products, or 
environments; (2) 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; or (3) facilitating service delivery systems 
change through (a) the development, evaluation, and dissemination of 
consumer-responsive and individual and family centered innovative 
models for the delivery to both rural and urban areas of innovative

[[Page 12067]]
cost-effective rehabilitation technology services, and (b) other 
scientific research to assist in meeting the employment and independent 
needs of individuals with severe disabilities.
    Each RERC must provide training opportunities to individuals, 
including individuals with disabilities, to become researchers of 
rehabilitation technology and practitioners of rehabilitation 
technology in conjunction with institutions of higher education and 
nonprofit organizations.
    General: The Secretary proposes that the following requirements 
apply to this RERC pursuant to this absolute priority unless noted 
    The RERC must have the capability to design, build, and test 
prototype devices and assist in the transfer of successful solutions to 
the marketplace. The RERC must evaluate the efficacy and safety of its 
new products, instrumentation, or assistive devices.
    The RERC must provide graduate-level research training to build 
capacity for engineering research in the rehabilitation field and to 
provide training in the applications of new technology to service 
providers and to individuals with disabilities and their families.
    The RERC must develop all training materials in formats that will 
be accessible to individuals with various types of disabilities and 
communication modes, and widely disseminate findings and products to 
individuals with disabilities and their families and representatives, 
service providers, manufacturers and distributors, and other 
appropriate target populations.
    The RERC must involve individuals with disabilities and, if 
appropriate, their family members in planning and implementing the 
research, development, and training programs, in interpreting and 
disseminating the research findings, and in evaluating the Center.
    The RERC must share information and data, and, as appropriate, 
collaborate on research and training with other NIDRR-supported 
grantees including, but not limited to, the Americans with Disabilities 
Act (ADA) Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers and 
other related RERCs and RRTCs. The RERC must work closely with the RERC 
on Technology Evaluation and Transfer at the State University of New 
York at Buffalo.
    Priority: Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3) the Secretary proposes to give 
an absolute preference to applications that meet the following 
priority. The Secretary proposes to fund under this competition only 
applications that meet this absolute priority.

Proposed Priority: Assistive Technology for Older Persons With 

    In 1991-1992, of 30.68 million persons who were 65 years old and 
over, 16.54 million or 53.9 percent had a disability. Of those 16.54 
million with a disability, 15.21 million persons had a ``functional 
limitation'' performing activities such as seeing, hearing, reaching, 
or walking (J. McNeil, Americans with Disabilities: 1991-1992, 
Household Economic Studies, P70-33, December 1993). The prevalence of 
medical, neurological and orthopedic impairments increases with the age 
of the population. It is estimated that over half of all Americans over 
seventy years of age have one or more disabilities (McNeil, 1993). 
Also, as a result of improved life-long health care and expanded 
employment and educational opportunities, increased numbers of persons 
with severe disabilities will become part of our elderly population and 
experience new or changed assistive technology needs.
    While assistive technology has been used in rehabilitation to help 
reduce the adverse effects of disability, it is only beginning to be 
used effectively to address problems in geriatric rehabilitation. An 
RERC on assistive technology for older persons with disabilities will 
address the application of technology to meet the special needs of 
older persons with disabilities and their caregivers.
    Many devices or techniques aimed at ameliorating specific 
disabilities are designed to augment or take advantage of compensatory 
abilities. However, multiple and gradual changes related to aging may 
leave older persons without one or more areas of strength with which to 
compensate for other functional losses. For example, an older person 
requiring a wheelchair, because of gradual loss of muscle mass, may not 
have, or may not be able to develop, the requisite arm strength to use 
grab bars to assist them in transferring in and out of their 
    Efforts to develop and disseminate technological aids to older 
persons with functional limitations must be conducted in the context of 
using effective information dissemination strategies to reach older 
persons. It is also necessary to deliver effective training in the use 
and maintenance of the technology that is prescribed. It is 
particularly important to make information on assistive technology for 
older persons with disabilities available in relation to the major 
activities of work, personal and health care, and leisure.
    Assistive technology can address the physical stress that is 
problematic for caregivers of older persons with disabilities. Many of 
these caregivers are spouses who are elderly themselves. Premature 
admission to institutional care is commonly caused by a crisis of the 
caregiver rather than by a sudden deterioration in the health or 
abilities of the older persons with a disability. Typically, the 
caregiver becomes injured or sick and finds it impossible to continue 
to do the lifting and other demanding physical tasks. Assistive 
technology that can assist the caregiver can have a major impact on 
eliminating the need or delaying the time for institutional placement 
of an older person with a disability.

Proposed Priority

    The Secretary proposes to establish an RERC on assistive technology 
for older persons with disabilities for the purposes of: (1) 
Identifying the needs for assistive technology by older persons with 
disabilities; (2) developing design modifications to existing assistive 
technology devices and disseminating these modifications to developers 
of assistive technology; (3) developing and evaluating unique assistive 
technology devices that otherwise will not be developed by the field; 
(4) identifying the problems of assistive technology service delivery 
utilization, including maintenance, and developing and testing service 
delivery models to address those problems; and (5) developing and 
delivering training and technical assistance to rehabilitation service 
providers, providers of general services to older persons, and 
consumers, on sources and uses of assistive technology for older 
persons with disabilities and caregivers.
    In addition to activities proposed by the applicant to carry out 
these purposes, the RERC shall:
    * Develop and implement an information dissemination
initiative to address utilization problems, including targeting 
disability and elderly organizations as well as assistive technology 
service providers;
    * Coordinate and share information with NIDRR-funded RRTCs
on Rehabilitation and Aging, and with programs funded under the 
Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 
1988; and
    * Establish a collaborative relationship with the RERC on
Technology Evaluation and Transfer and the RERC on Accessible Housing 
and Universal Design.

[[Page 12068]]

Invitation To Comment

    Interested persons are invited to submit comments and 
recommendations regarding this proposed priority. All comments 
submitted in response to this notice will be available for public 
inspection, during and after the comment period, in Room 3424, Switzer 
Building, 330 C Street SW., Washington, DC, between the hours of 9:00 
a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday of each week except Federal 

Applicable Program Regulations

    34 CFR Parts 350 and 353.

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 760-762.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 84.133E, 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers)

    Dated: February 12, 1996.
Howard R. Moses,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
[FR Doc. 96-7076 Filed 3-22-96; 8:45 am]