[Federal Register: March 12, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 48)]
[Page 11203-11206]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

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Part IV

Department of Education


National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; Notice

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National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

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

ACTION: Notice of proposed priorities.


SUMMARY: We propose funding priorities under the Rehabilitation 
Engineering Research Center (RERC) program for up to five 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers under the National 
Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) for Fiscal 
Years 2002-2004. We take this action to focus research attention on 
areas of national need. We intend these priorities to improve the 
rehabilitation services and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before April 11, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Address all comments about these proposed priorities to 
Donna Nangle, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., 
room 3412, Switzer Building, Washington, DC 20202-2645. If you prefer 
to send your comments through the Internet, use the following address: 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donna Nangle. Telephone: (202) 205-
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may 
call the TDD number at (202) 205-4475 or via the Internet: 
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed under FOR FURTHER 


Invitation To Comment

    We invite you to submit comments regarding these proposed 
    We invite you to assist us in complying with the specific 
requirements of Executive Order 12866 and its overall requirement of 
reducing regulatory burden that might result from these proposed 
priorities. Please let us know of any further opportunities we should 
take to reduce potential costs or increase potential benefits while 
preserving the effective and efficient administration of the program.
    During and after the comment period, you may inspect all public 
comments about these priorities in Room 3412, Switzer Building, 330 C 
Street SW., Washington, DC, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., 
Eastern time, Monday through Friday of each week except Federal 

Assistance to Individuals With Disabilities in Reviewing the 
Rulemaking Record

    On request, we will supply an appropriate aid, such as a reader or 
print magnifier, to an individual with a disability who needs 
assistance to review the comments or other documents in the public 
rulemaking record for these proposed priorities. If you want to 
schedule an appointment for this type of aid, please contact the person 
    We will announce the final priorities in a notice in the Federal 
Register. We will determine the final priorities after considering 
responses to this notice and other information available to the 
Department. This notice does not preclude us from proposing or funding 
additional priorities, subject to meeting applicable rulemaking 

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use these proposed priorities, we invite 
applications through a notice published in the Federal Register. 
When inviting applications we designate each priority as absolute, 
competitive preference, or invitational. 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 either (1) 
awarding additional points, depending on how well or 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 
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority we are 
particularly interested in applications that meet the invitational 
priority. However, we do not give an application that meets the 
priority a competitive or absolute preference over other applications 
(34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).

    Note: The proposed priorities support President Bush's New 
Freedom Initiative (NFI). The NFI can be accessed on the Internet at 
the following site:

    The proposed priorities are also in concert with NIDRR's Long-Range 
Plan, which can be accessed on the Internet at the following site: 

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers Program

    We may make awards for up to 60 months through grants or 
cooperative agreements 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. Each RERC must be operated by or in collaboration with an 
institution of higher education or a nonprofit organization.

Description of Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers

    RERCs carry out research or demonstration activities by:
    (a) Developing and disseminating innovative methods of applying 
advanced technology, scientific achievement, and psychological and 
social knowledge to (1) solve rehabilitation problems and remove 
environmental barriers and (2) study new or emerging technologies, 
products, or environments;
    (b) Demonstrating and disseminating (1) innovative models for the 
delivery of cost-effective rehabilitation technology services to rural 
and urban areas and (2) other scientific research to assist in meeting 
the employment and independent living needs of individuals with severe 
disabilities; or
    (c) Facilitating service delivery systems change through (1) 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 cost-effective rehabilitation 
technology services and (2) other scientific research to assist in 
meeting the employment and independence needs of individuals with 
severe disabilities.
    Each RERC must provide training opportunities, in conjunction with 
institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations, to assist 
individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to become 
rehabilitation technology researchers and practitioners.

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    Technology plays a vital role in the lives of millions of disabled 
and older Americans. Advances in assistive technology and adoption of 
principles of universal design have significantly improved the quality 
of life for these individuals. Individuals with significant 
disabilities regularly use products developed as the result of 
rehabilitation and biomedical research to achieve and maintain maximum 
physical function, live independently, study and learn, and attain 
gainful employment. The range of engineering research has broadened to 
encompass not only assistive technology but also technology at the 
systems level (i.e., the built environment, information and 
communication technologies, transportation, etc.) and technology that 
interfaces between the individual and systems technology and is basic 
to community integration.
    The NIDRR RERC program has been a major force in the development of 
technology to enhance independent function for individuals with 
disabilities. The RERCs are recognized as national centers of 
excellence in their respective areas and collectively represent the 
largest federally supported program responsible for advancing 
rehabilitation engineering research. For example, the RERC program was 
an early pioneer in the development of augmentative communication and 
has been at the forefront of prosthetics and orthotics research for 
both children and adults. A recently established RERC is responsible 
for designing prosthetics for land mine survivors from developing 
countries using indigenous materials and fabrication capabilities. The 
RERC on Telerehabilitation is developing methods for the efficient 
delivery of rehabilitation services in rural settings and to reduce the 
cost of long-term care. RERCs have played a major role in the 
development of voluntary standards that industry uses when developing 
wheelchairs, wheelchair restraint systems, information technologies, 
and the World Wide Web. The RERC on Low Vision and Blindness helped 
develop talking sign technologies that are currently being utilized in 
major cities in both the United States and Japan to help blind and 
visually impaired individuals navigate city streets and subways. RERCs 
have been a driving force in the development of universal design 
principles that can be applied to the built environment, information 
technology and telecommunications, transportation, and consumer 
products. The clinical use of electromyography, gait analysis, and 
functional electrical stimulation has been made possible due to earlier 
research supported by the RERC program.
    Significant financial investments in basic biomedical science and 
technology are paying off with new opportunities to further enhance the 
lives of people with disabilities. Recent advances in biomaterials 
research, composite technologies, information and telecommunication 
technologies, nanotechnologies, micro-electro mechanical systems 
(MEMS), sensor technologies, tissue engineering, and the neurosciences 
also provide a wealth of opportunities for individuals with 
disabilities and should be incorporated into research focused on 
disability and rehabilitation. In recognition of this need, the 
President's ``New Freedom Initiative'' has identified the RERC program 
as one worthy of expansion and the Administration has significantly 
increased the RERC budget for fiscal year 2002 (New Freedom Initiative, 
    NIDRR intends to fund up to five new RERCs in fiscal year 2002. 
Applicants must select from the following priority topic areas: (a) 
Spinal Cord Injury; (b) Recreational Technologies and Exercise 
Physiology Benefiting Persons with Disabilities; (c) Applied 
Biomaterials; (d) Measurement and Monitoring of Functional Performance; 
(e) Accessible Medical Instrumentation; (f) Universal Interface 
Technologies; (g) Work Place Accommodations; (h) Accessible Airline 
Transportation; and (i) Rehabilitation Robotics and Telemanipulation 
Systems. NIDRR is particularly interested in applications that address 
topic areas (a) and (b). Applicants are allowed to submit more than one 
proposal as long as each proposal addresses only one RERC topic area.

Letters of Intent

    Due to the open nature of this competition, NIDRR is requiring all 
potential applicants to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI). Each LOI must 
be limited to a maximum of four pages and must include the following 
information: (1) The title of the proposed RERC, the name of the host 
institution, the name of the Principal Investigator (PI), and the names 
of partner institutions and entities; (2) a brief statement of the 
vision, goals and objectives of the proposed RERC and a description of 
its research and development activities at a sufficient level of detail 
to allow potential reviewers to be selected; (3) a list of proposed 
RERC staff including the Center Director and key personnel; and (4) a 
list of individuals whose selection as a reviewer might constitute a 
conflict of interest due to involvement in proposal development, 
selection as an advisory board member, co-PI relationships, etc.
    The signed, original LOI must be received by NIDRR no later than 
four weeks after the Notice of Final Funding Priorities for this 
competition is published in the Federal Register. Submission of a LOI 
is a prerequisite for eligibility to submit an application. With prior 
approval, an email or facsimile copy of a LOI will be accepted, but the 
signed original must be sent to: William Peterson, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3425, Switzer Building, 
Washington, DC 20202-2645. For further information regarding the LOI 
requirement, contact William Peterson at (202) 205-9192 or by e-mail 
at: william.peterson@ed.gov.

Proposed Priorities

    The Assistant Secretary proposes to fund up to five RERCs that will 
focus on innovative technological solutions, new knowledge, and 
concepts to promote the health, safety, independence, active engagement 
in daily activities and quality of life of persons with disabilities. 
Each RERC must:
    (1) Contribute substantially to the technical and scientific 
knowledge-base relevant to its respective subject area;
    (2) Research, develop, and evaluate innovative technologies, 
products, environments, performance guidelines, and monitoring and 
assessment tools as applicable to its respective subject area;
    (3) Identify, implement, and evaluate, in collaboration with the 
industry, professional associations, and institutions of higher 
education, innovative approaches to expand research capacity in its 
respective field of study;
    (4) Monitor trends and evolving product concepts that represent and 
signify future directions for technologies in its respective area of 
    (5) Provide technical assistance to public and private 
organizations responsible for developing policies, guidelines, and 
standards that affect its respective area of research.
    In addition to the activities proposed by the applicant to carry 
out these purposes, each RERC must:
     Develop and implement in the first year of the grant, in 
consultation with the NIDRR-funded National Center for the 
Dissemination of Disability Research (NCDDR), a plan to disseminate the 
RERC's research results to disability organizations, persons with 
disabilities, technology service providers, businesses, manufacturers, 
and appropriate journals;

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     Develop and implement in the first year of the grant, in 
consultation with the NIDRR-funded RERC on Technology Transfer, a plan 
for ensuring that all new and improved technologies developed by this 
RERC are successfully transferred to the marketplace;
     Conduct a state-of-the-science conference on its 
respective area of research in the third year of the grant cycle and 
publish a comprehensive report on the final outcomes of the conference 
in the fourth year of the grant cycle; and
     Coordinate on research projects of mutual interest with 
relevant NIDRR-funded projects as identified through consultation with 
the NIDRR project officer.
    Each RERC must focus on one of the following priority topic areas:
    (a) Spinal Cord Injury: This center must conduct research and 
develop applications that address problems in the treatment, 
rehabilitation, employment, and reintegration into society of persons 
with spinal cord injury. This center will be expected to work 
collaboratively with the NIDRR-funded Model Spinal Cord Injury Centers 
    (b) Recreational Technologies and Exercise Physiology Benefiting 
Persons With Disabilities: This center must research and develop 
technologies that will enhance recreational opportunities for people 
with disabilities and develop methods to enhance the physical 
performance and endurance of people with disabilities;
    (c) Applied Biomaterials: This center must facilitate the 
application of advances in materials and tissue engineering for medical 
rehabilitation applications such as prosthetics and orthotics, 
implants, reconstructive surgery, and burns. It will bring together 
leaders in biomedical research, medical practitioners, and consumers to 
promote the design, development, and utilization of state-of-the-art 
methodologies and products for rehabilitation and disability 
    (d) Measurement and Monitoring of Functional Performance: This 
center must research and develop technologies and methods that 
effectively assess the outcomes of rehabilitation therapies by 
combining measurements of physiological performance with measures of 
functional performance;
    (e) Accessible Medical Instrumentation: This center must research, 
develop, and evaluate methods and technologies to increase the 
usability and accessibility of diagnostic, therapeutic, and procedural 
healthcare equipment (i.e., equipment used during medical examinations, 
treatment, etc.) for people with disabilities. This includes developing 
methods and technologies that are useable and accessible for patients 
and health care providers with disabilities;
    (f) Universal Interface Technologies: This center must develop 
universal interface technologies that will allow for easy integration 
of multiple technologies used by individuals with disabilities (e.g., 
augmentative communication devices, powered mobility devices, 
environmental control systems, telecommunication systems, and 
information technologies, including multimedia systems). This includes 
effective speech to text systems, eye and head control systems, and 
methods to enhance the utility of graphical devices for the visually 
    (g) Work Place Accommodations: This center must identify, design, 
and develop devices and systems to enhance the productivity of people 
with disabilities in the workplace. It must emphasize the application 
of universal design concepts to improve the utility of workplace tools 
and devices for all workers;
    (h) Accessible Airline Transportation: This center must research 
and develop methods, systems, and devices that will promote and enhance 
the ability of people with disabilities to safely and efficiently 
embark/disembark, travel comfortably, and use restroom facilities on 
commercial passenger airliners; and
    (i) Rehabilitation Robotics and Telemanipulation Systems: This 
center must explore the use of human-scale robots and telemanipulation 
(the integration of human-control with a manipulator) systems that will 
address the unique needs of people with disabilities and 
    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.

Electronic Access to This Document

    You may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe 
Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site: 
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the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-
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    Note: The official version of this document is 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.access.gpo.gov/nara/

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number: 84.133E, 
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center Program)

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 762(g) and 764(b)(3).

    Dated: March 6, 2002.
Loretta L. Petty,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
[FR Doc. 02-5920 Filed 3-11-02; 8:45 am]