FR Doc 03-11626
[Federal Register: May 9, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 90)]
[Page 25011-25014]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []

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RIN 1820-ZA23

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

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

ACTION: Notice of proposed priorities.


SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services proposes priorities for up to seven awards 
under the Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTC) Program 
under the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research 
(NIDRR). The Assistant Secretary may use these priorities for 
competition in fiscal year (FY) 2003 and later years. 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 June 9, 2003.

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 

    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 
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:

    These proposed priorities are in concert with NIDRR's Long-Range 
Plan (the Plan). The Plan is comprehensive

[[Page 25012]]

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 these 
proposed priorities, 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 

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 representatives, providers, and other interested 
    [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 of 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.



    The following categories represent areas of NIDRR interest based on 
prior investment, recommendations from constituencies, and 
opportunities for continued advancement in rehabilitation treatment and 
support of community integration efforts. Basic incidence and 
prevalence data are provided for each of the proposed Health and 
Function RRTCs.
    There are increasing numbers of individuals aging with disability 
in the United States. As reported in Chapter Six of Healthy People 
2010, from 1990 to 1994, disability rates increased in youth under the 
age of 18 as well as in the age group between 18 and 44. Advances in 
medical science, technology, rehabilitation treatment, public health, 
and consumer education have resulted in increased life expectancies for 
individuals with significant physical disabilities. In addition, the 
absolute number of persons aged 65 or older living with disabilities 
also increased.
    There are approximately 10,000 new cases of spinal cord injury 
(SCI) each year; the prevalence of SCI is estimated to be between 
183,000 and 230,000. Although medical advances have improved the 
probability of surviving SCI, the life expectancy of individuals with 
SCI is lower than that of the general population. People living with 
SCI continue to be at higher risk than the general population for 
secondary disabilities such as pressure ulcers, respiratory 
complications, urinary tract infections (UTIs), pain, depression, and 
    An estimated 5.3 million Americans currently live with disabilities 
resulting from traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Centers for Disease 
Control (CDC) estimate that approximately 80,000 Americans experience 
the onset of disabilities resulting from TBI each year. As stated in 
the 1998 National Institute of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference 
Proceedings, ``TBI may result in lifelong impairment of an individual's 
physical, cognitive, and psychosocial functioning.'' Among children up 
to age 14, TBI results annually in an estimated 3,000 deaths, 29,000 
hospitalizations, and 400,000 emergency department visits. The long-
term consequences of these occurrences are not well documented. A 
working group convened by the National Center for Injury Prevention and 
Control at the CDC in October, 2000, called for more research on 
patterns of recovery, secondary conditions, effectiveness of treatment, 
and issues of measurement for this population.
    Neuromuscular diseases affect approximately 400,000 children and 
adults in the U.S. Neuromuscular disease is a classification category 
that describes diseases of the peripheral neuromuscular system, both 
acquired and hereditary. This category encompasses diseases such as 
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, post-polio, Guillan-Barre, muscular 
dystrophy, myasthenia gravis, and other muscular atrophies and 
myopathies. Conditions associated with these disorders include 
progressive weakness, limb contractures, spine deformity, and impaired 
pulmonary function.
    New or recurrent stroke affects approximately 600,000 people each 
year in the U.S., the majority of whom (72 percent) are 65 or older. 
Approximately 84 percent of these events are first attacks, while the 
remaining 16 percent are recurrent episodes. Stroke is the leading 
diagnosis for individuals treated in medical rehabilitation facilities 
in the U.S. In addition, there are approximately 4.4 million stroke 
survivors living in the U.S.
    Arthritis affects approximately 43 million Americans, which is 
about 1 of every 6 people, making it one of the most common disease 
groups in the U.S. In addition, as the U.S. population ages, the number 
of Americans with arthritis is expected to increase to 60 million 
persons by 2020. Arthritis is also the leading cause of disability 
among adults in America, with more than 7 million persons in our 
population reporting daily limitations in their activities due to 
    Approximately 300,000 individuals in the U.S. have multiple 
sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous 
system when the white matter protecting the nerve fibers is

[[Page 25013]]

damaged. The age of onset peaks between 20 and 30 years. Almost 70 
percent of persons exhibit symptoms between the ages of 21 and 40. The 
life expectancy of persons with MS is essentially normal; however, 
there may be progressive or recurring and relapsing incidences of 
symptoms and disability over the life course. Recent pharmacological 
treatments reduce the progression or frequency of attacks of the 
symptoms for some people with MS, and other treatments are effective 
for some manifestations of the disease.

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 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: Ruth Brannon, 
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 Ruth Brannon at (202) 358-2971 
or by e-mail at:
Proposed Priorities

    The Assistant Secretary proposes to fund up to seven RRTCs that 
will focus on rehabilitation to improve the health and function of 
persons with disabilities and thus to improve their ability to live in 
the community. Each RRTC must:
    (1) Identify, develop, and evaluate rehabilitation techniques to 
address its respective area of research and improve outcomes for its 
designated population group;
    (2) Develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive plan for 
training critical stakeholders, e.g., consumers/family members, 
practitioners, service providers, researchers, and policymakers;
    (3) Provide technical assistance, as appropriate, to critical 
stakeholders, (e.g., consumers/family members, practitioners, and 
service providers) to facilitate utilization of research findings in 
its respective area of research; and
    (4) 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.
    In addition to the activities proposed by the applicant to carry 
out these purposes, each 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] 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; and
    [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 
    Each RRTC must focus on one of the following priority topic areas:
    (a) Psycho-social Factors Affecting Individuals Aging with 
Disability: This Center must conduct research and training activities 
that generate new knowledge regarding the psycho-social issues that 
affect individuals aging with disabilities and the sources of 
resilience used by this population to cope with or respond to these 
issues. In an effort to improve long-term outcomes for these 
individuals, the Center is encouraged to identify or develop and test 
the effectiveness of interventions that will prevent or minimize the 
impact of psycho-social issues on the health, activity, and community 
participation of individuals with disabilities across the life span and 
promote positive adjustment and improved quality of life. The reference 
for this topic can be found in the Plan, Chapter 4, Health and 
Function: Research on Aging with a Disability.
    (b) Secondary Conditions in Rehabilitation of Individuals with 
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI): In an effort to improve the general health, 
well-being, and community integration of individuals with SCI, this 
Center must conduct research and training activities to enhance 
knowledge regarding treatment or prevention strategies or both that 
address the wide array of secondary conditions associated with SCI, 
including, but not limited to, respiratory complications, urinary tract 
infections, pressure ulcers, pain, obesity, and depression. The 
reference for this topic can be found in the Plan, Chapter 4, Health 
and Function: Research on Secondary Conditions.
    (c) Community Integration of Individuals With Traumatic Brain 
Injury (TBI): This Center must identify, assess, and evaluate current 
and emerging community integration needs of individuals with TBI, 
including but not limited to mild TBI. The Center should consider the 
impact of secondary conditions on community integration outcomes as 
well as the role of assistive devices and other technology. In 
addition, this Center must develop and evaluate a comprehensive plan to 
facilitate the translation of new knowledge into rehabilitation 
practice and the delivery of community-based services. The reference 
for this topic can be found in the Plan, Chapter 4, Health and 
Function: Research on Aging with a Disability.
    (d) Rehabilitation of Individuals with Neuromuscular Diseases: This 
Center must conduct research that addresses rehabilitation needs, 
particularly related to exercise, nutrition, and pain, of individuals 
with neuromuscular diseases. In doing this, the Center must identify or 
develop and evaluate health promotion and wellness programs to enhance 
recreational opportunities for individuals with neuromuscular

[[Page 25014]]

diseases. This Center must identify, develop as appropriate, and 
evaluate devices and other technology that improve employment and 
community integration outcomes for this population of individuals with 
disabilities. The reference for this topic can be found in the Plan, 
Chapter 4, Health and Function: Research on Progressive and 
Degenerative Disease Rehabilitation.
    (e) Rehabilitation of Stroke Survivors: This Center must conduct 
research to develop rehabilitation interventions that improve 
rehabilitation, employment, and community integration outcomes of 
stroke survivors, including young stroke survivors. Such interventions 
may include robotics, complementary alternative therapies, and 
universal design methodologies aimed at improving the utility of 
workplace tools and devices. This Center must explore the cost-
effectiveness of stroke rehabilitation treatments, such as group model 
approaches. The reference for this topic can be found in the Plan, 
Chapter 4, Health and Function: Research on Trauma Rehabilitation.
    (f) Rehabilitation of Individuals with Arthritis: This Center must 
address national goals to reduce pain and disability, improve physical 
fitness and quality of life, and promote independent living and 
community integration for persons with arthritis of all ages in the 
United States. This Center must research the benefits of exercise and 
physical fitness; home and community-based self-management programs; 
and technologies available to the broad populations of persons with 
arthritis in the environments where they live, learn, work, and play. 
The reference for this topic can be found in the Plan, Chapter 4, 
Health and Function: Research on Progressive and Degenerative Disease 
    (g) Rehabilitation of Children with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): 
This Center must identify, assess, and evaluate current and emerging 
rehabilitation needs for children and adolescents with TBI. In doing 
this, the Center must document patterns of recovery, determining the 
effectiveness of current outcome measures for this population. Of 
particular interest will be evaluation of interventions and 
technologies, including specialized support services, to assist 
families and caregivers with transition to the school and the 
community. This RRTC must identify or develop effective rehabilitation 
strategies to improve outcomes for children and adolescents with TBI at 
all stages of rehabilitation. The reference for this topic can be found 
in the Plan, Chapter 4, Health and Function: Research on Trauma 
    (h) Rehabilitation of Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS): 
This Center must conduct research to maximize the participation of 
people with MS, including those with all levels of symptoms associated 
with the disease, at home, in the community, and while working or 
learning. In doing so, the Center must identify, develop as necessary, 
and evaluate interventions to enhance the independence of people with 
MS. Those interventions must include strategies and programs that 
address interactions between cognitive, psychosocial, sensory, 
mobility, and other manifestations of the disease across the lifespan. 
The Center must consider the role of assistive and universally designed 
technologies, strategic goals, and financial planning for persons with 
MS, and the role of caregivers throughout the disease course. The 
reference for this topic can be found in the Plan, Chapter 4, Health 
and Function: Research on Progressive and Degenerative Disease 

Executive Order 12866

    This notice of proposed priorities 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 
priorities 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 notice of proposed priorities, we have 
determined that the benefits of the proposed priorities justify the 
    Summary of potential costs and benefits: The potential cost 
associated with these proposed priorities 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 Rehabilitation Research and Training Center 
Program have been well established over the years in that similar 
projects have been completed. These proposed priorities will generate 
new knowledge through a research, dissemination, utilization, training, 
and technical assistance projects.
    The benefit of these proposed priorities and proposed applications 
and project requirements will be the establishment of a new RRTCs that 
generate, disseminate, and promote 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:
    To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available 
free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-6498; or in 
the Washington, DC, area at (202) 512-1530.

    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. 03-11626 Filed 5-8-03; 8:45 am]