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So You Want To Apply for a NIDILRR Grant?: The Basics of What You Need to Know


Understanding NIDILRR Programs

NIDILRR’s mission is to generate new knowledge and promote its effective use to improve the abilities of people with disabilities to perform activities of their choice in the community, and also to expand society"s capacity to provide full opportunities and accommodations for its citizens with disabilities.

NIDILRR accomplishes its mission largely through grants with institutions of higher education, profit making and non-profit organizations and other agencies and organizations. However, individuals are eligible for the Switzer Research Fellowship program.

Grants are awarded through nine programs or primary funding mechanisms as described below.To read brief description of the program or funding mechanism of interest to you just click on it from the menu below.

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How to Apply

The basic steps of applying include:

These basic steps are described below. We have included a separate section on writing a successful application.

Understanding and Using Grant-Related Notices

NIDILRR publishes a variety of notices regarding potential and open grant competitions. Understanding each will help you prepare for and write grant applications:

Forecast of Funding Opportunities:
Not all grant areas are funded every year, so it is important to determine which areas are likely to be competed in a given year and the dates of the competitions. A listing of planned and open competitions can be found at Forecast of Funding Opportunities. The timelines and substance can change throughout the course of a year, so it is important to check this site regularly.

Notice of Proposed Priorities:
The subject matter of some grant mechanisms rarely change from year to year and the grant competition is announced through a Notice Inviting Applications (NIA). Examples of these competitions are the Switzer Fellowship Program, the Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training Program, Field Initiated Projects and Small Business Innovation Research.

However, subject matter in several of our grant areas change each time they are competed. This is especially true in the DRRP, Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers and Rehabilitation Research and Engineering Centers programs. Before subject, or "priority" of a competition is finalized, NIDILRR publishes its proposed priority in the Federal Register through a Notice of Proposed Priority (NPP). The NPP presents the proposed priority and gives the public time to comment upon it, usually 30 days. In addition to allowing the public to make comments, it provides potential applicants a "heads up" as to a priority that is likely to be used for a grant competition.

Notice of Final Priorities:
A Notice of Final Priority (NFP) results from the analysis of comments provided by the public in response to the NPP. The NFP provides an analysis of comments received and the final version of the priority to be used for a grant competition. Once an NFP is published and an associated grant competition opens, only applications that respond to the NFP will be considered for funding.

Notice Inviting Applications:
Notices Inviting Applications (NIA) announce the opening of grant competitions. NIAs include award levels, due dates, links to application kits and other important information. Grant competitions usually open the same day a NIA is published, so it is important to be aware of them.

NPPs, NFP, and NIAs are published in the Federal Register. Go to this Federal Register page to view such NIDILRR notices published within the past 90 days.

In addition, The National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) will automatically send you an email within a few days of publication of any NIDILRR-related NPPs, NFPs and NIAs. You may sign up for this service through here. There, you will find an area labeled: “Interested in NIDILRR Grant Announcements?” Click on that link and follow instructions to get on their e-mail list.

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Completing Registrations

Complete registrations early. The first step for a new applicant is to obtain certain account numbers and complete registrations—specifically, a DUNs number, a TIN and a SAM, along with registering with

DUNS Number:
A DUNS number is a unique identifier necessary to apply for any government grant or contract. You can obtain a DUNS number free of charge from Dun and Bradstreet. A DUNS number can be created within one business day. Individuals applying for the Switzer Fellowship Program may use their social security number in lieu of the DUNs number.

TIN Number:
If you are a corporate entity, agency, institution or organization, you must have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), which can be obtained free of charge from the Internal Revenue Service. If you need a new TIN, please allow 2-5 weeks for your TIN to become active. Individuals applying for the Switzer Fellowship Program may use their social security number in lieu of the TIN.

SAM Registration:
The System for Awards Management (SAM.GOV) is the primary vendor database for the U.S. Federal Government. SAM collects, validates, stores and disseminates data in support of agency acquisition missions. You must register with the System for Awards Management, or SAM if you wish to apply for a Federal grant or contract. The SAM registration process may take five or more business days to complete. If you are currently registered with SAM, you may not need to make any changes. However, make certain that the TIN associated with your DUNS number is correct. Also note that you will need to update your SAM registration on an annual basis. This may take three or more business days to complete. Registration:
Finally, you must register with, which will allow you to use and upload an application into application system. This registration may take five or more business days to complete. You may begin working on your application while completing the registration process, but you cannot submit an application until all of the Registration steps are complete. For detailed information on the Registration Steps, please go to:

We can"t emphasize strongly enough the importance of completing these registrations early.

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Writing and Submitting Your Grant Application

If you wish to apply for a NIDILRR grant, identify an appropriate grant competition. Not all grant areas are funded every year, so it is important to determine which areas are likely to be competed in a given year and the dates of the competitions. A listing of planned and open competitions can be found at ED"s Forecast of Funding Opportunities.

Information and links to NIAs (which announce the opening of grant competitions), as well as recent NPPs and NFPs can be found at the Federal Register. NIAs include links to application packages. You can also search for open NIDILRR grant announcements and application packages by using"s advanced search form.

TIP: To find Open NIDILRR Competitions and application packages, type the stem "84.133" (without quotes) in the box labeled "Search by CFDA Number" and then click "search" at the bottom of the page.

Once you locate a competition in which you are interested, you can begin writing your application. See the section "writing a successful application" for tips on writing your application.

We strongly recommend that you do not wait until the last day to submit your application. will put a date/time stamp on your application and then process it after it is fully uploaded. The time indicated on this stamp represents your official submission time. Be aware that the time it takes to upload an application will vary depending on a number of factors including the size of the application and the speed of your Internet connection, and the time it takes to process the application will vary as well.

If rejects your application, you will need to resubmit successfully before 4:30:00 p.m. Washington, DC time on the deadline date. We recommend submitting applications the day before the deadline. That way, if there are problems, you will have time to correct them.

TIP: To submit successfully, you must provide the DUNS number on your application that was used when you registered for This DUNS number is typically the same number used when your organization registered with SAM (System for Award Managment). If you do not enter the same DUNS number on your application as the DUNS you registered with, will reject your application.

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Verifying Receipts

You will want to verify that and the U.S. Department of Education received your submission on time and that it was validated successfully. To see the date/time your application was received, login to and click on the "Track My Application" link. For a successful submission, the date/time received should be earlier than 4:30:00 p.m., Washington, D.C., time, on the deadline date, AND the application status should be: Validated as "Received by Agency," or "Agency Tracking Number Assigned."

If the date/time received is later than 4:30:00 p.m., Washington, D.C., time, on the deadline date, your application is late. If your application has a status of "Received" it is still awaiting validation by Once validation is complete, the status will either change to "Validated" or "Rejected with Errors." If the status is "Rejected with Errors," your application has not been received successfully.

Some of the reasons may reject an application can be found on the site. Sometimes the problem relates to an Adobe Reader error. For more detailed information on troubleshooting Adobe errors, you can review the Adobe Reader Error Messages document. If you discover your application is late or has been rejected, please see the instructions at Note: You will receive a series of confirmations both online at and via e-mail about the status of your application. Please do not rely solely on e-mail to confirm whether your application has been received timely and validated successfully.

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Writing a Successful Grant Application

Writing a successful grant application can be challenging, especially for a new applicant. Below are some helpful tips for new applicants:

Understand and take advantage of the information in NPP, NFPs and NIAs:
Understanding our grant process can give you a head start on grant applications. Many of our grant competitions (especially the DRRPs, RRTCs, RERCs) begin with an NPP (Notice of Proposed Priority). The NPP announces our intention to call for grant proposals on a particular priority and invites comments on that priority. At this point in time, the grant competition is not open. While there is no guarantee that we will actually conduct a grant competition on that topic, the fact is that we do in most cases. This should give you, as a potential applicant, a heads up. Use this time to begin planning your application

After we have received and analyzed comments on the NPP, we issue an NFP (Notice of Final Priority). The NFP announces our final priority, based upon an analysis of the comments. It is usually accompanied by an NIA (Notice Inviting Applications). This document indicates when NIDILRR will accept applications on that topic, the deadlines, award limits and other key information for that specific grant competition. It will also include information on how to obtain the application kit, usually on the Web. It is important to read the NIA and application kit carefully as it includes important information not only on the topic, but on matters such as deadlines and page limits—applications are rejected for not attending to such details.

NPPs, NFPs and NIAs are published in the Federal Register.

Keep the peer reviewer in mind:
NIDILRR bases its funding decisions primarily upon the scores of peer reviewers—non-federal subject matter specialists who review each application. An applicant wins a grant award by scoring the most points. Read the peer review criteria carefully. These are clearly stated in the application package. As you write your proposal, think like a peer reviewer—ask yourself, “how would I score this section if I were a peer reviewer? How could I make it easier for the peer reviewer to rate my application and award more points?” If you do not address the criteria convincingly, peer reviewers will award fewer points. Also, express your ideas clearly. A peer reviewer must be able to discern the main ideas of your proposal.

Write clearly and convincingly:
Be simple, direct, and clear in your writing. A lucid, compelling proposal will score more points than a poorly written proposal. Make the application exciting. Use of active over passive voice will help. Ask yourself how your proposal will advance the science on this topic—what impact will it have? To help, we suggest you ask colleagues to review and rate you proposal as mock peer reviewers prior to submitting it to NIDILRR.

Address peer reviewer comments:
Address peer reviewer comments: You may be rejected on your first submission to our Field Initiated, ARRT Switzer or SBIR competitions. If that is the case, study the peer reviewer comments carefully. Even if you think you addressed a particular concern, you probably didn’t make the point clearly enough if peer reviewers commented on it. Peer reviewer comments are some of the most important input you can use for improving your application. Address the comments, and reapply.

Serve as peer reviewer:
One of the best ways to understand the peer review process is to serve as a peer reviewer. For a general overivew of what to expect if you decide to become a peer reviewer for NIDILRR, click here.

Apply to serve as a NIDILRR peer reviewer by submitting a request and resume to the following address: While serving on a NIDILRR review panel may be your best learning experience for writing NIDILRR proposals, serving on peer review panels for other agencies, foundations or professional publications are also good experiences.

Talk to NIDILRR:
A discussion with NIDILRR staff can provide insight on what it takes to write a successful application. However, please realize that staff are limited in what they can share about a specific competition once it opens. It is better to call before a competition opens. Call NIDILRR at 202-245-7640 and the receptionist will connect you to the most appropriate NIDILRR staff person to discuss your ideas or how to apply

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Last Modified: 03/30/2015