FR Doc 03-11623
[Federal Register: May 9, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 90)]
[Page 25004-25006]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []

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RIN 1820 ZA18

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

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

ACTION: Notice of proposed priority.


SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services proposes a priority for a Disability 
Demographics and Statistics Center under the Rehabilitation Research 
and Training Centers (RRTC) Program for the National Institute on 
Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). The Assistant Secretary 
may use this priority for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2003 and 
later years. We take this action to focus research attention on an area 
of national need. We intend this priority to improve the rehabilitation 
services and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before June 9, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Address all comments about this proposed priority 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 this proposed priority.
    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 this proposed 
priority. 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 this priority 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 

    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 this proposed priority. If you want to schedule 
an appointment for this type of aid, please contact the person listed 
    We will announce the final priority in a notice in the Federal 
Register. We will determine the final priority 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 this proposed priority, 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 
competitive priority over an application of comparable merit that 
does not meet the competitive priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(ii)).
    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: NIDRR supports the goals of President Bush's New Freedom 
Initiative (NFI). The NFI can be accessed on the Internet at the 
following site:

    The proposed priority is in concert with NIDRR's Long-Range Plan 
(the Plan). The Plan is comprehensive and integrates many issues 
relating to disability and rehabilitation research topics. While 
applicants will find many sections throughout the Plan that support 
potential research to be conducted under this proposed priority, a 
specific reference is included for the topic presented in this notice. 
The Plan can be accessed on the Internet at the following site:
    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.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers

    We may make awards for up to 60 months to institutions of higher 
education or providers of rehabilitation or other appropriate services. 
RRTCs conduct coordinated and integrated advanced programs of research 
targeted toward the production of new knowledge to improve 
rehabilitation methodology and service delivery systems, alleviate or 
stabilize disability conditions, or promote maximum social and economic 
independence for persons with disabilities. Additional information on 
the RRTC program can be found at:

General Requirements of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers

    RRTCs must:
    [sbull] Carry out coordinated advanced programs of rehabilitation 
    [sbull] Provide training, including graduate, pre-service, and in-
service training to help rehabilitation personnel more effectively 
provide rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities;
    [sbull] Provide technical assistance to individuals with 
disabilities, their representatives, providers, and other interested 
    [sbull] Disseminate informational materials to individuals with 
disabilities, their

[[Page 25005]]

representatives, providers, and other interested parties;
    [sbull] Serve as centers for national excellence in rehabilitation 
research for individuals with disabilities, their representatives, 
providers, and other interested parties; and
    [sbull] Involve individuals with disabilities and individuals from 
minority backgrounds as recipients or research as well as 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.



    Policymakers, researchers, consumers, and advocates use information 
about the prevalence of disabilities for many purposes. Information 
about demographics and distribution of individuals with disabilities is 
essential in program planning and assessing performance. Data are key 
to evidence-based decisionmaking about the need for, costs of, and 
outcomes of assisting individuals with disabilities. Reliable and valid 
measures are necessary for evaluating disability policies, services, 
and outcomes.
    The dynamic nature of disability challenges accurate measurement. 
Environmental and individual interactions complicate analysis. Causes 
and patterns of disability change constantly, straining the capacity of 
demographics to describe new populations and their impact on service 
systems. Immigrants, for example, especially those who are not legal 
residents, present unique challenges to the rehabilitation system. 
Emergent disabilities such as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), 
chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome (CFIDS), and fibromyalgia 
are examples where definitional factors complicate diagnosis, 
reporting, and analysis necessary to address policy and service issues. 
Population surveys on health and disability frequently lack an adequate 
number of low prevalence but potentially highly disabling cases 
necessary for statistical analyses.
    Policymakers and program administrators need continual, rigorous 
improvement in data methods to identify and respond to disability 
trends. Decisionmakers and citizens must know the costs and benefits of 
services and policies for individuals with disabilities at home, in the 
community, and when learning or working. Measures and indicators of 
supports such as technology, personal assistance services, health 
insurance, and accommodations are needed in assessing factors that lead 
to high quality outcomes such as successful employment, community 
living, and educational success of people of all ages.
    Lack of standard definitions, terminology, coding, classification, 
and measurement of disability and functioning often limits 
generalization of research findings. Extending use of research findings 
or population trends to inform policy or clinical interventions is 
limited due to the difficulty of extrapolating knowledge about 
disabilities that is gathered from a disparate range of data sources, 
classification and coding systems, and measures of disability. For 
example, it is important to estimate future potential demands on 
rehabilitation systems, but existing population data sources do not 
adequately provide for planning, development, and evaluation of 
rehabilitation services and population trends. The International 
Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) is a coding 
system that allows one to assess disability as a dynamic interaction 
between the person and the environment. The ICF can assist with 
generating evidence-based policy, research, programs, and services. To 
extend the use of the ICF within the United States, a variety of 
measurement tools and data systems must be examined in addition to 
further evaluation of the implications of the classification system for 
U.S. populations. To better serve consumers, NIDRR intends to support 
the development, evaluation, and improvement of the ICF as it applies 
to participation of individuals with disabilities in society and the 
environments, systems, and policies that have the potential to affect 
their lives.

Letters of Intent

    To assist with selection of reviewers for 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 RRTC, 
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 RRTC and a description of its research and development 
activities at a sufficient level of detail to allow NIDRR to select 
potential peer reviewers; (3) a list of proposed RRTC staff including 
the Center Director and key personnel; and (4) a list of individuals 
whose selection as a peer reviewer might constitute a conflict of 
interest due to involvement in proposal development, selection as an 
advisory board member, co-PI relationships, etc. Submission of a LOI is 
a prerequisite for eligibility to submit an application.
    The signed, original LOI, or with prior approval an email or 
facsimile copy, must be received by NIDRR no later than June 9, 2003. 
Applicants that submit email or facsimile copies must follow up by 
sending to NIDRR the signed original copy no later than one week after 
the date the e-mail or facsimile copy was sent. All communications 
pertaining to the LOI must be sent to: David Keer, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3431, Switzer Building, 
Washington, DC 20202-2645. With prior approval, an email or facsimile 
copy of a LOI will be accepted by NIDRR as meeting the four-week 
deadline. However, in these cases, NIDRR must receive a signed original 
no later than one week after the date the e-mail or facsimile copy was 
sent. For further information regarding the LOI requirement, contact 
David Keer at (202) 205-5633 or by e-mail at:
Proposed Priority

    The Assistant Secretary proposes to fund one RRTC on disability 
demographics and statistics. The purpose of the RRTC is to support 
rigorous collaborative research to generate new knowledge that advances 
evidence-based decisionmaking to improve the lives of persons with 
disabilities. The references for this topic can be found in the Plan, 
Chapter 2, Dimensions of Disability: Age, Gender, Education, Income, 
and Geography; Chapter 7, Associated Disability Areas: Disabilty 
Statistics. The RRTC must:
    (1) Conduct analyses using a variety of data sources, including 
those that assess facilitators and barriers to participation in 
society, to address the status and understanding of the population of 
individuals with disabilities;
    (2) Identify, develop as necessary, and validate a series of best-

[[Page 25006]]

approaches that facilitate the selection of appropriate measures, 
ensure a high degree of power and representativeness of the sample, and 
apply techniques of interviewing and data collection that lead to high 
levels of quality and relevance of information while minimizing the 
burden on respondents;
    (3) Identify, develop as necessary, and evaluate instruments, data 
sources, administrative records, or other sources that allow Federal 
policymakers to use the ICF classification system for evidence-based 
    (4) Serve as a resource on disability statistics and demographics 
for Federal and other government agencies, policymakers, consumers, 
advocates, researchers, and others; and
    (5) Develop quality standards to guide the identification of 
information for dissemination and conduct all activities to prepare, 
produce, and disseminate findings in a variety of media, such as web-
based and print documents, meetings and conferences, and 
teleconferences that are targeted to the wide range of audiences who 
need such information.
    In addition to the activities proposed by the applicant to carry 
out these purposes, the RRTC must:
    [sbull] 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. This conference must include materials 
from experts internal and external to the center;
    [sbull] Develop a systematic plan for widespread dissemination of 
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.
    [sbull] Coordinate on research projects of mutual interest with 
relevant NIDRR-funded projects as identified through consultation with 
the NIDRR project officer;
    [sbull] Involve individuals with disabilities in planning and 
implementing its research, training, and dissemination activities, and 
in evaluating the Center;
    [sbull] Demonstrate in its application how it will address, in 
whole or in part, the needs of individuals with disabilities from 
minority backgrounds;
    [sbull] Demonstrate how the RRTC project will yield measurable 
results for people with disabilities;
    [sbull] Identify specific performance targets and propose outcome 
indicators, along with time lines to reach these targets; and
    [sbull] Demonstrate how the RRTC project can transfer research 
findings to practical applications in planning, policy-making, program 
administration, and delivery of services to individuals with 

Executive Order 12866

    This notice of proposed priority 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 the notice of proposed priority 
are those resulting from statutory requirements and those we have 
determined as necessary for administering this program effectively and 
    In assessing the potential costs and benefits--both quantitative 
and qualitative--of this notice of proposed priority, we have 
determined that the benefits of the proposed priority justify the 
    Summary of potential costs and benefits: The potential cost 
associated with this proposed priority is minimal while the benefits 
are significant. Grantees may anticipate costs associated with 
completing the application process in terms of staff time, copying, and 
mailing or delivery. The use of e-Application technology reduces 
mailing and copying costs significantly.
    The benefits of the Disability Demographics and Statistics Center 
have been well established over the years in that similar projects have 
been completed. This proposed priority will generate new knowledge 
through a research, dissemination, utilization, training, and technical 
assistance project.
    The benefit of this proposed priority and proposed applications and 
project requirements will be the establishment of a new RRTC that 
generates, disseminates, and promotes the use of new information that 
will improve the options for disabled individuals to perform regular 
activities in the community.
    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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Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-6498; or in 
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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:

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number: 84.133B, 
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center Program)

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 762(g) and 764(b)(2).

    Dated: May 6, 2003.
Robert H. Pasternack,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 03-11623 Filed 5-8-03; 8:45 am]