[Federal Register: January 4, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 1)]
[Page 341-345]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

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Department of Education
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; Notice of
Proposed Funding Priorities for Fiscal Years 1999-2000 for Certain 
Centers and Projects; Notice

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National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; 
Funding Priorities

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of Proposed Funding Priorities for Fiscal Years 1999-
2000 for Certain Centers and Projects.


SUMMARY: The Secretary proposes funding priorities for two 
Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTCs) and two Disability 
and Rehabilitation Research Projects (DRRPs) under the National 
Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) for fiscal 
years 1999-2000. The Secretary takes this action to focus research 
attention on areas of national need. These priorities are intended to 
improve rehabilitation services and outcomes for individuals with 

DATES: Comments must be received on or before February 3, 1999.

ADDRESSES: All comments concerning these proposed priorities should be 
addressed to Donna Nangle, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Maryland 
Avenue, S.W., room 3418, Switzer Building, Washington, D.C. 20202-2645. 
Comments may also be sent through the Internet: comments@ed.gov
    You must include the term ``Disability and Rehabilitation Research 
Projects and Centers'' in the subject line of your electronic message.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donna Nangle. Telephone: (202) 205-
5880. Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD) may call the TDD number at (202) 205-2742. Internet: 
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternate format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed in the preceding 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice contains proposed priorities 
under the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers 
Program for two RRTCs related to: measuring rehabilitation outcomes; 
and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities from minority 
backgrounds. The notice also contains proposed priorities for two DRRPs 
related to: dissemination of disability and rehabilitation research; 
and the international exchange of information and experts. There are 
references in the proposed priorities to NIDRR's Long-Range Plan (LRP). 
The LRP can be accessed on the World Wide Web at: http://www.ed.gov/
legislation/FedRegister/announcements/1998-4/102698a.html. These 
proposed priorities support the National Education Goal that calls for 
every adult American to possess the skills necessary to compete in a 
global economy.
    The authority for the Secretary to establish research priorities by 
reserving funds to support particular research activities is contained 
in sections 202(g) and 204 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as 
amended (29 U.S.C. 762(g) and 764).
    The Secretary will announce the final priorities in a notice in the 
Federal Register. The final priorities 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 these proposed priorities 
does not preclude the Secretary from proposing additional priorities, 
nor does it limit the Secretary to funding only these priorities, 
subject to meeting applicable rulemaking requirements.

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

Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers

    Authority for the RRTC program of NIDRR is contained in section 
204(b)(2) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. 
764(b)(2)). Under this program the Secretary makes awards to public and 
private organizations, including institutions of higher education and 
Indian tribes or tribal organizations for coordinated research and 
training activities. These entities must be of sufficient size, scope, 
and quality to effectively carry out the activities of the Center in an 
efficient manner consistent with appropriate State and Federal laws. 
They must demonstrate the ability to carry out the training activities 
either directly or through another entity that can provide that 
    The Secretary may make awards for up to 60 months through grants or 
cooperative agreements. The purpose of the awards is for planning and 
conducting research, training, demonstrations, and related activities 
leading to the development of methods, procedures, and devices that 
will benefit individuals with disabilities, especially those with the 
most severe disabilities.

Description of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers

    RRTCs are operated in collaboration with institutions of higher 
education or providers of rehabilitation services or other appropriate 
services. RRTCs serve as centers of national excellence and national or 
regional resources for providers and individuals with disabilities and 
the parents, family members, guardians, advocates or authorized 
representatives of the individuals.
    RRTCs conduct coordinated, integrated, and advanced programs of 
research in rehabilitation targeted toward the production of new 
knowledge to improve rehabilitation methodology and service delivery 
systems, to alleviate or stabilize disabling conditions, and to promote 
maximum social and economic independence of individuals with 
    RRTCs provide training, including graduate, pre-service, and in-
service training, to assist individuals to more effectively provide 
rehabilitation services. They also provide training including graduate, 
pre-service, and in-service training, for rehabilitation research 
personnel and other rehabilitation personnel.
    RRTCs serve as informational and technical assistance resources to 
providers, individuals with disabilities, and the parents, family 
members, guardians, advocates, or authorized representatives of these 
individuals through conferences, workshops, public education programs, 
in-service training programs and similar activities.
    RRTCs disseminate materials in alternate formats to ensure that 
they are accessible to individuals with a range of disabling 
    NIDRR encourages all Centers to involve individuals with 
disabilities and individuals from minority backgrounds as recipients of 
research training, as well as clinical training.
    The Department is particularly interested in ensuring that the 
expenditure of public funds is justified by the execution of intended 
activities and the advancement of knowledge and, thus, has built this 
accountability into the selection criteria. Not later than three years 
after the establishment of any RRTC, NIDRR will conduct one or more 
reviews of the activities and achievements of the Center. In accordance 
with the provisions of 34 CFR 75.253(a), continued funding depends at 
all times on satisfactory performance and accomplishment.

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Proposed General Requirements

    The Secretary proposes that the following requirements apply to 
these RRTCs pursuant to these absolute priorities unless noted 
otherwise. An applicant's proposal to fulfill these proposed 
requirements will be assessed using applicable selection criteria in 
the peer review process. The Secretary is interested in receiving 
comments on these proposed requirements:
    Each RRTC must provide: (1) training on research methodology and 
applied research experience; and (2) training on knowledge gained from 
the Center's research activities to persons with disabilities and their 
families, service providers, and other appropriate parties.
    Each RRTC must develop and disseminate informational materials 
based on knowledge gained from the Center's research activities, and 
disseminate the materials to persons with disabilities, their 
representatives, service providers, and other interested parties.
    Each RRTC must involve individuals with disabilities and, if 
appropriate, their representatives, in planning and implementing its 
research, training, and dissemination activities, and in evaluating the 
    The RRTC must conduct a state-of-the-science conference and publish 
a comprehensive report on the final outcomes of the conference. The 
report must be published in the fourth year of the grant.
    The RRTC must coordinate with other entities carrying out related 
research or training activities.


    Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3), the Secretary proposes to give an 
absolute preference to applications that meet the following priorities. 
The Secretary proposes to fund under this competition only applications 
that meet one of these absolute priorities.

Proposed Priority 1: Measuring Rehabilitation Outcomes

    Chapter Four of NIDRR's proposed LRP (63 FR 57204) discusses issues 
in medical rehabilitation, including research on rehabilitation 
outcomes. There is a need to develop more effective outcomes 
measurement tools to determine the effectiveness, including the cost-
effectiveness, of medical rehabilitation interventions and products. 
Chapter Seven of the Proposed LRP (63 FR 57211) reviews the importance 
of documenting outcomes across service settings and programs. The 
proposed LRP identifies long-term outcomes, such as employment, 
community integration, and quality of life, as an important component 
of the new paradigm of disability that expands the focus of research 
from the individual to society and the environment. NIDRR expects this 
RRTC to integrate the new paradigm of disability in its research 
activities. The new paradigm maintains that disability is a product of 
an interaction between characteristics of the individual and 
characteristics of the natural, man-made, cultural, social 
    Medical rehabilitation outcomes research has focused on function. 
NIDRR supported the development and application of the Functional 
Independence Measure (FIM), a criterion-referenced scale that has been 
widely accepted in inpatient rehabilitation settings. NIDRR also 
supported the development of the Craig Handicap Assessment and 
Reporting Technique that contains scales for assessing the World Health 
Organization dimensions of ``handicap'' (i.e., participation) and is 
currently being refined to measure cognitive components of disability.
    While researchers have been able to demonstrate gain in function, 
as measured by instruments like the FIM, there is no conclusive 
evidence regarding the specific impact of therapeutic intervention on 
functional gain (Heinemann, A. et al., ``Relation of Rehabilitation 
Intervention to Functional Outcome,'' Final Technical Report, Center 
for Functional Assessment Research, University of Buffalo, pg. 11, 
1998). In addition, medical rehabilitation providers are being asked to 
demonstrate the relationship between short-term functional gain and 
long-term outcomes for persons with disabilities (Wilkerson, D. and 
Johnston, M., ``Clinical Program Monitoring Systems,'' in Assessing 
Medical Rehabilitation Practices--The Promise of Outcomes Research, 
pgs. 275-305, 1997).
    In addition to the widespread use of the FIM as a measure of 
function, there are other commonly used measures. Also, there are 
multiple measures related to other types of outcomes, including quality 
of life, community integration, and consumer satisfaction. Providers, 
consumers, and other stakeholders have difficulty comparing outcomes 
because use of outcome measures across settings is not standardized 
(Wilkerson, D. and Johnston, M., ibid.).

Proposed Priority

    The Secretary proposes to establish an RRTC for the purpose of 
developing improved methods that assess the effectiveness of medical 
rehabilitation services. The RRTC must:
    (1) Develop and test a theoretical model or models assessing long-
term outcomes as part of a system of evaluating medical rehabilitation 
    (2) Investigate the extent to which the effectiveness of medical 
rehabilitation services can be determined by applying functional 
outcomes measures to specific rehabilitation interventions;
    (3) Identify gaps in existing measures of medical rehabilitation 
effectiveness, assessing not only the FIM's, but also other 
instruments' utility as a measure of the impact of therapeutic 
interventions on function across rehabilitation settings;
    (4) Revise or develop and test measures of medical rehabilitation 
effectiveness to address gaps identified by (3) above; and
    (5) Evaluate and describe the uses of medical rehabilitation 
outcome data by payers, providers, and consumers.
    In carrying out these purposes, the RRTC must coordinate with the 
RRTC on Health Care for Individuals with Disabilities--Issues in 
Managed Health Care, the National Center on Medical Rehabilitation 
Research, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Health Care 
Financing Administration.

Proposed Priority 2: Rehabilitation of Persons With Disabilities From 
Minority Backgrounds

    Chapter Two of NIDRR's proposed LRP (63 FR 57194) discusses and 
highlights methodological problems in the categorization and definition 
of disability, including identifying and measuring consequences of 
disability in minority populations. Disabilities in minority 
populations may be associated with factors such as health, poverty, 
family structure, environment, aging, substance abuse, chronic disease, 
and violence-related trauma in ways that are substantially different 
from non-minority populations. Chapter 3 of the proposed LRP identifies 
the need for minority populations research that provides information 
about employment factors, including identifying rehabilitation 
strategies that are based on knowledge about the characteristics of 
racial and ethnic minorities.
    For the purpose of this proposed priority, persons for minority 
backgrounds include one or more of the following minorities: Asian-
Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Black or African-Americans, and Native 
Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders. American

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Indians and Alaskan Natives are not included as a target population for 
this RRTC because other NIDRR grants address their needs directly.

Proposed Priority

    The Secretary proposes to establish an RRTC on rehabilitation of 
persons with disabilities from minority backgrounds for the purpose of 
evaluating their rehabilitation needs and improving their 
rehabilitation outcomes. The RRTC must:
    (1) Identify methodological problems in determining the 
rehabilitation needs of persons with disabilities from minority 
backgrounds, including subpopulations within these groups, and propose 
strategies to address these methodological problems;
    (2) Based on paragraph (1), identify implications for 
rehabilitation research, training, policy development, and services;
    (3) Assess the outcomes of rehabilitation for persons with 
disabilities from minority backgrounds, as measured by two or more 
variables (e.g., functional abilities, health and wellness, employment, 
and psychosocial status), and analyze the effects of minority status on 
rehabilitation outcomes; and
    (4) Identify, develop, and evaluate rehabilitation methodologies, 
models and interventions for specific minorities in selected areas 
drawn from the NIDRR Research Agenda in Section Two of the proposed 
    In carrying out the purpose of the priority, the RRTC must:
      Include concepts of health self-assessment and consumer 
decision-making related to participation in the labor force; and
      Coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention's Center on Minority Health.

Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects

    Authority for Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects 
(DRRPs) is contained in section 204(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 
1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. 764(a)). DRRPs carry out one or more of the 
following types of activities, as specified in 34 CFR 350.13--350.19: 
research, development, demonstration, training, dissemination, 
utilization, and technical assistance. Disability and Rehabilitation 
Research Projects 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. In addition, 
DRRPs improve the effectiveness of services authorized under the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

Proposed Priority 3: Dissemination of Disability and Rehabilitation 

    Chapter Eight of NIDRR's proposed LRP (63 FR 57213) describes the 
importance of effective knowledge dissemination and utilization (D&U).
NIDRR proposes to establish a center that will serve as the cornerstone 
of NIDRR's D&U efforts by carrying out research on effective
dissemination methodologies and providing technical assistance to all 
of NIDRR's grantees as well as to the wide array of consumers of 
disability research findings.

Proposed Priority

    The Secretary proposes to establish a DRRP for the purpose of 
increasing the usefulness of NIDRR-funded research findings. The 
National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research must:
    (1) Identify and evaluate effective methodologies for disseminating 
disability research to persons with disabilities and their families, 
service providers, policymakers, and other researchers;
    (2) Provide technical assistance on D&U methodologies to all NIDRR
grantees including, but not limited to, addressing cultural relevance, 
ensuring physical accessibility of information, and developing 
effective dissemination plans.
    (3) Develop, implement, and evaluate a plan for collaboration among 
NIDRR projects that primarily disseminate information in order to 
enhance dissemination and avoid duplication of activities; and
    (4) Develop, implement, and evaluate methods that diverse public 
audiences can use to access NIDRR-funded research findings.

Proposed Priority 4: International Exchange of Information and Experts

    The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, provides NIDRR with the 
authority to exchange experts and technical assistance in field of 
rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities as well as conduct a 
program for international research and demonstration (Section 204 
(b)(6)). Cooperative international research activities can offer new 
perspectives on solving rehabilitation problems, provide data for the 
evaluation of domestic programs, and assist U.S. rehabilitation 
practitioners to improve the effectiveness of the services they 
provide, especially for minority and immigrant populations.

Proposed Priority

    The Secretary proposes to establish a DRRP for the purpose of 
improving rehabilitation services by obtaining and disseminating 
information on international rehabilitation research and practices. The 
project must:
    (1) Develop and maintain a database of international rehabilitation 
research and make this database available to grantees supported by 
NIDRR, the Office of Special Education Programs, and the Rehabilitation 
Services Administration;
    (2) Conduct rehabilitation research conferences involving 
participants from the U.S. and other countries;
    (3) Conduct an international exchange of research and technical 
assistance experts between other countries and the United States; and
    (4) Disseminate information on cultural perspectives on 
rehabilitation to entities that provide rehabilitation or conduct 
rehabilitation research and training activities involving persons from 
foreign backgrounds.

Electronic Access to This Document

    Anyone may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or 
portable document format (pdf) on the World Wide Web at either of the 
following sites:


To use the pdf you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader Program with 
Search, which is available free at either of the preceding sites. If 
you have questions about using the pdf, call the U.S. Government 
Printing Office at (202) 512-1530 or, toll free at 1-888-293-6498.
    Anyone may also view these documents in text copy only on an 
electronic bulletin board of the Department. Telephone: (202) 219-1511 
or, toll free, 1-800-222-4922. The documents are located under Option 
G--Files/Announcements, Bulletins and Press Releases.

    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register.

    Invitation to Comment: Interested persons are invited to submit 
comments and recommendations regarding these proposed priorities. All 
comments submitted in response to this notice will be available for 
public inspection,

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during and after the comment period, in Room 3424, Switzer Building, 
330 C Street S.W., Washington, D.C., between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 
4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday of each week except Federal holidays.
    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR Parts 350.

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

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 84.133A, Disability 
and Rehabilitation Research Projects, and 84.133B, Rehabilitation 
Research and Training Centers)

    Dated: December 28, 1998.
Judith E. Heumann,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 98-34750 Filed 12-31-98; 8:45 am]