FR Doc 2010-6783
[Federal Register: March 26, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 58)]
[Notices]               
[Page 14585-14588]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr26mr10-47]                           

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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 proposed priority.

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


[[Page 14586]]


SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services proposes a priority for the Disability and 
Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program administered by 
NIDRR. Specifically, this notice proposes a priority for an RRTC. 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: We must receive your comments on or before April 26, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Address all comments about this notice to Donna Nangle, U.S. 
Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 6029, Potomac 
Center Plaza (PCP), Washington, DC 20202-2700.
    If you prefer to send your comments by e-mail, use the following 
address: donna.nangle@ed.gov. You must include the term ``Proposed 
Priority for an RRTC on Center on Employment Outcomes for Individuals 
who are Blind or Visually Impaired'' in the subject line of your 
electronic message.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donna Nangle. Telephone: (202) 245-
7462 or by e-mail: donna.nangle@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 proposed 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.
    Invitation to Comment: We invite you to submit comments regarding 
this notice.
    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 ways we could 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 notice in room 6029, 550 12th Street, SW., PCP, 
Washington, DC, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., 
Washington, DC time, Monday through Friday of each week except Federal 
holidays.
    Assistance to Individuals With Disabilities in Reviewing the 
Rulemaking Record: On request we will provide an appropriate 
accommodation or auxiliary aid to an individual with a disability who 
needs assistance to review the comments or other documents in the 
public rulemaking record for this notice. If you want to schedule an 
appointment for this type of accommodation or auxiliary aid, please 
contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.
    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 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.

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

    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.

Proposed Priority

    This notice contains one proposed priority.

Center on Employment Outcomes for Individuals Who are Blind or Visually 
Impaired

Background

Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTCs)
    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 (72 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 representatives, providers, and other interested 
parties;
     Demonstrate in their applications how they will address, 
in whole or in part, the needs of individuals with disabilities from 
minority backgrounds;
     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.

Center on Employment Outcomes for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually 
Impaired

Background

    More than 21 million non-institutionalized adults, age 18 and 
above, report trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contacts 
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). Of working-age 
(16-64 years) individuals who report blindness or serious difficulty 
seeing even when wearing glasses, 38.9 percent are employed (American 
Foundation for the Blind, 2009). In contrast, 71.2 percent of 
individuals in this age range with no disabling condition are employed 
(U.S. Department of Labor, 2009).

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    Previous research, some of which has been conducted by NIDRR-funded 
centers on blindness and low vision, has identified a number of 
barriers to, and facilitators of, employment for individuals who are 
blind or visually impaired. Facilitators include, but are not limited 
to, postsecondary education or training, braille literacy, inclusive 
corporate cultures, and some characteristics of vocational 
rehabilitation (VR) services (Capella-McDonall, 2005; Golub, 2006; 
Jernigan Institute, 2009; Kirchner & Smith, 2005). Barriers include 
negative employer attitudes about blindness and work disincentives 
experienced by Social Security beneficiaries. These disincentives 
include reduced benefits and potential ineligibility for health care 
coverage for those who become employed and whose income exceeds program 
income limits (Crudden, Sansing & Butler, 2005; Stapleton, O'Day, 
Livermore, & Imparato, 2006).
    There is little empirical research that applies the results of this 
research on barriers and facilitators to the development and testing of 
specific practices, services, and interventions to improve employment 
outcomes in either the general population of individuals who are blind 
or who have visual impairments, or in subpopulations of individuals 
from this population who are at even greater risk for poor employment 
outcomes. Such populations include, but are not limited to, individuals 
who have more severe vision loss or who have multiple disabilities 
(National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, 2005; Shaw, Gold & Wolffe, 
2007).
    Moreover, although there are a variety of services, practices, and 
interventions that are currently being used to improve employment 
outcomes for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, there is 
little research that supports the effectiveness and use of these 
interventions and practices. Some of these interventions and practices 
directly relate to improving employment outcomes. These include the use 
of peer mentoring as well as collaborations between VR agencies and 
consumer organizations that can provide access to mentors and input 
regarding VR services and counselor training (Drew & Alan, 2006; Iowa 
Department for the Blind, 2009; National Federation of the Blind, 
2009). Other practices and interventions, such as training to promote 
positive adjustment to an acquired disability, and orientation/mobility 
training, are intended to have more general effects, but appear to 
affect occupational success as well (Drew & Alan, 2004; Omvig, 2005). 
Research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of these practices 
and to identify and validate other promising practices that improve 
employment outcomes for this population.

References

American Foundation for the Blind. (2009). Interpreting Bureau of 
Labor Statistics employment data. See 
http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=15&SubTopicID=177.
Capella-McDonnall, M.E. (2005). Predictors of competitive employment 
for blind and visually impaired consumers of vocational 
rehabilitation services. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 
99, 303-315.
Crudden, A., Sansing, W., & Butler, S. (2005). Overcoming barriers 
to employment: Strategies of rehabilitation providers. Journal of 
Visual Impairment & Blindness, 99, 325-335.
Drew, D.W., & Alan, G.M. (Eds). (2004). Contemporary issues in 
orientation and mobility. Institute on Rehabilitation Issues, 
Monograph No. 29. Washington, DC: The George Washington University, 
Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program.
Drew, D.W., & Alan, G.M (Eds.). (2006). Consumer organizations: 
Important resources for vocational rehabilitation agencies. 
Institute on Rehabilitation Issues Monograph No. 31. Washington, DC: 
The George Washington University, Center for Rehabilitation 
Counseling Research and Education.
Golub, D.B. (2006). A model of successful work experience for 
employees who are visually impaired: The results of a study. Journal 
of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 100, 715-725.
Iowa Department for the Blind. (2009). Pathfinders: Changing Lives 
together. See http://www.blind.state.ia.us/living/pathfinders.
Jernigan Institute. (2009). The Braille literacy crisis in America: 
Facing the truth, reversing the trend, empowering the blind. 
National Federation of the Blind. See http://www.nfb.org/nfb/Braille_Initiative.asp.
Kirchner, C, & Smith, B. (2005). Transition to what?: Education and 
employment outcomes for visually impaired youths after high school. 
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 99, 499-503.
National Federation of the Blind. (2009). National Center for 
Mentoring Excellence: A program of the National Federation of the 
Blind. See http://www.nfb.org/nfb/NCME_Brochure1.asp?SnID=1447563890.
National Longitudinal Transition Study-2. (2005). Changes over time 
in the early post school outcomes of youth with disabilities. See 
http://www.nlts2.org/reports/2005_06/.
Omvig, J.H. (2005). Freedom for the blind: The secret is 
empowerment. Baltimore, MD: National Federation of the Blind.
Shaw, A., Gold, E., & Wolffe, K. (2007). Employment-related 
experiences of youths who are visually impaired: How are these 
youths faring? Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 101, 7-21.
Stapleton, D.C., O'Day, B.L., Livermore, G.A., & Imparato, A.J. 
(2006). Dismantling the poverty trap: Disability policy for the 
twenty-first century. The Milbank Quarterly, 84, 701-732.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). Summary health 
statistics for the U.S. population: National Health Interview 
Survey, 2006. (DHHS Publication No. (PHS) 2008-1564). Hyattsville, 
MD.

Proposed Priority

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services proposes 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 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

[[Page 14588]]

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 or consumer groups) in conducting the work 
of the RRTC; and
    (2) Conducting training and dissemination activities to facilitate 
the utilization of research findings in employment 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)).

Final Priority

    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 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 proposed regulatory 
action.
    The potential costs associated with this proposed 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 proposed regulatory action, we have determined 
that the benefits of the proposed 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 proposed 
priority will generate new knowledge and technologies through research, 
development, dissemination, utilization, and technical assistance 
projects.
    Another benefit of this proposed 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.
    Intergovernmental Review: This program is not subject to Executive 
Order 12372 and the regulations in 34 CFR part 79.
    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: March 23, 2010.
Alexa Posny,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 2010-6783 Filed 3-25-10; 8:45 am]
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