FR Doc 2010-8166
[Federal Register: April 9, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 68)]
[Page 18185-18189]
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National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research 
(NIDRR)--Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers 
Program--Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs)

    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.133E-1 and 
AGENCY: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 
Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of proposed priorities for two RERCs.


SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services proposes two priorities for the Disability and 
Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program administered by 
NIDRR. Specifically, this notice proposes two priorities for RERCs: 
Universal Design in the Built Environment and Technologies for Children 
with Orthopedic Disabilities. The Assistant Secretary may use these 
priorities 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 these priorities to improve rehabilitation services and 
outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before May 10, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Address all comments about this notice to Donna Nangle, U.S. 
Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 5142, Potomac 
Center Plaza, Washington, DC 20202-2700.
    If you prefer to send your comments by e-mail, use the following 
address: You must include the term ``Proposed 
Priorities for RERCs'' and the priority title in the subject line of 
your electronic message.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donna Nangle. Telephone: (202) 245-
7462 or by e-mail:
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

    This notice of proposed priorities 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:
    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. This notice proposes two priorities that NIDRR intends to use 
for RERC competitions in FY 2010 and possibly later years. However, 
nothing precludes NIDRR from publishing additional priorities, if 
    Furthermore, NIDRR is under no obligation to make awards for these 
priorities. The decision to make an award will be based on the quality 
of applications received and available funding.
    Invitation to Comment: We invite you to submit comments regarding 
this notice. To ensure that your comments have maximum effect in 
developing the notice of final priorities, we urge you to identify 
clearly the specific proposed priority that each comment addresses.
    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 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 6030, 550 12th Street, SW., Potomac 
Center Plaza, 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, including international 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

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improve the effectiveness of services authorized under the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Rehabilitation Act).

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers Program (RERCs)

    The purpose of the RERC program is to improve the effectiveness of 
services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act by conducting advanced 
engineering research and development on innovative technologies that 
are designed to solve particular rehabilitation problems, or to remove 
environmental barriers. RERCs also demonstrate and evaluate such 
technologies, facilitate service delivery system changes, stimulate the 
production and distribution of new technologies and equipment in the 
private sector, and provide training opportunities.

General Requirements of RERCs

    RERCs carry out research or demonstration activities in support of 
the Rehabilitation Act by--
     Developing and disseminating innovative methods of 
applying advanced technology, scientific achievement, and psychological 
and social knowledge: (a) To solve rehabilitation problems and to 
remove environmental barriers; and (b) to study and evaluate new or 
emerging technologies, products, or environments and their 
effectiveness and benefits; or
     Demonstrating and disseminating: (a) Innovative models for 
the delivery of cost-effective rehabilitation technology services to 
rural and urban areas; and (b) other scientific research to assist in 
meeting the employment and independent living needs of individuals with 
severe disabilities; and
     Facilitating service delivery systems change through: (a) 
The development, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, consumer-
responsive, and individual- and family-centered models for the delivery 
to both rural and urban areas of innovative cost-effective 
rehabilitation technology services; and (b) other scientific research 
to assist in meeting the employment and independence needs of 
individuals with severe disabilities.
    Each RERC must be operated by, or in collaboration with, one or 
more institutions of higher education or one or more nonprofit 
    Each RERC must provide training opportunities, in conjunction with 
institutions of higher education or nonprofit organizations, to assist 
individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to become 
rehabilitation technology researchers and practitioners.
    Each RERC must emphasize the principles of universal design in its 
product research and development. Universal design is ``the design of 
products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest 
extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized 
design'' (North Carolina State University, 1997.
    Additional information on the RERC program can be found at:

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

    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.
    Proposed Priorities: This notice contains two proposed priorities.

Proposed Priority 1--Universal Design in the Built Environment


    Universal Design (UD) is the design of products and environments to 
be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the 
need for adaptation or specialized design (North Carolina State 
University, 1997). UD improves function, independence, and social 
participation for the entire population, including individuals with 
    Examples of UD in the built environment include curb cuts, ramps, 
automatic doors, restrooms, and wayfinding strategies. There will be an 
increased need for products and environments with UD as the Baby Boom 
generation ages. Many in this generation will wish to remain in their 
own homes as they age (Bayer & Harper, 2000).
    Past work supported by NIDRR has contributed substantially to the 
development of the field of UD. With NIDRR funding, the Center for 
Universal Design, in collaboration with other researchers and 
practitioners, developed and published the following ``principles of 
universal design'': Equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and 
intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low 
physical effort, and size and space for approach and use (http:// These seven design 
principles have guided researchers, engineers, and planners in 
designing accessible housing and built environments (North Carolina 
State University, 1997). Among other outcomes, NIDRR funding also has 
contributed to the development of 35 new State and local visitability 
programs across the U.S. These programs apply UD principles in the new 
housing industry by incorporating an affordable, sustainable, and 
inclusive design approach for integrating basic accessibility features 
into all newly built homes. In addition, NIDRR funding contributed to 
the inclusion of UD principles by the New York City Department of 
Design and Construction in the official guide for all architects 
working for the city (Danford & Tauke, 2000).
    Despite this progress, UD has experienced relatively slow adoption 
for several reasons. Until recently, engineers, designers, and 
manufacturers have focused on creating environments and products for 
individuals of average age, size, and ability and have argued that 
accommodations and design for all is too costly and complex (Danford & 
Tauke, 2000). In addition, university-level architecture and 
engineering programs do not generally include UD courses in their 
curriculum (Tauke, 2008). The UD field has been criticized for a lack 
of measurable implementation guidelines and a lack of explicit 
evidence-based UD practices (Steinfeld, 2006). Continued research and 
development in the area of UD is necessary to address these issues of 
UD adoption and viability. Curricula on UD for university-level 
engineering and design students, proper measurement tools, guidelines, 
evidence-based practices, and aesthetically pleasing and economically 
viable exemplars of UD are needed to demonstrate the efficacy of UD in 
facilitating independence and social participation among end users.


    Bayer, A. & Harper, L. (2000). AARP, Fixing to stay: A national 
survey of housing and home modification issues, 24. See http://
    Danford, G. & Tauke, B., eds. (2000). Universal Design: New York. 
New York, NY: Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. See http://
    North Carolina State University. (1997). The principles of 
universal design (1997). Version 2.0--4/1/97. Compiled by advocates of 
universal design, listed in alphabetical order: Bettye Rose Connell, 
Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon 
Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story, and Gregg Vanderheiden. North 
Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design. See http://

[[Page 18187]]
    Tauke, B. (2008). Universal Design--The time is now. See http://

Proposed Priority

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services proposes a priority for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research 
Center (RERC) on Universal Design (UD) in the Built Environment. Under 
this priority, the RERC must research, develop, evaluate, and promote 
UD in commercial and private facilities, outdoor environments, and 
housing. In addition, the RERC must create measurable UD standards and 
guidelines to facilitate the implementation of UD principles, create 
economically viable UD exemplars, aid in the development of evidence-
based practices for UD, and help to design curricula on UD for 
university-level engineering and design students. The RERC must assist 
designers, builders, and manufacturers incorporate UD into their 
buildings and communities.

Proposed Priority 2--Technologies for Children With Orthopedic 


    As of December 1, 2007, 55,131 students from 6 to 17 years of age 
were reported to the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. 
Department of Education as having an orthopedic impairment (IDEA Data, 
2007). The definition of orthopedic impairment in the IDEA regulations 
includes impairments caused by congenital anomalies, impairments caused 
by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments 
from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or 
burns that cause contractures) (34 CFR 300.8(c)(8)).
    Children with orthopedic disabilities often need assistance to 
perform a wide range of daily living tasks and activities. While family 
members, caregivers, and educators are the primary providers of this 
assistance, clinicians, researchers, and rehabilitation engineers are 
developing a growing number of technological products and interventions 
that assist children with orthopedic disabilities to function more 
    NIDRR has contributed to the research and development of 
technologies for children with orthopedic disabilities for 20 years. 
Much of this work has centered on developing mobility and manipulation 
devices. For example, a NIDRR-funded RERC developed lightweight 
orthotic components, evaluated the effectiveness of functional 
electrical stimulation to improve gait, and studied which stage of 
development is the most beneficial to provide children with wheeled 
mobility. A NIDRR-funded RERC also developed the Easy Feed Hand, a 
prosthetic hand that is designed to evolve with the growth of the 
child, and made a new mobile arm support orthosis commercially 
    Continued efforts are needed to develop new products, technologies, 
and therapies that promote independence and functional rehabilitation. 
While initial research has evaluated assistive technologies for 
children's independence and manipulation, more research and development 
are needed to fully implement these technologies. For example, light-
weight, adjustable pediatric wheelchairs can improve mobility (Meiser & 
McEwen, 2007) and provide children with better wheelchair performance 
with less exertion (Kirby et al., 2008). Manipulation devices, whether 
wheelchair mounted or autonomous, can provide greater independence and 
allow children to better interact with their environment (Machiel Van 
der Loos & Reinkensmeyer, 2008). Several rehabilitation therapies have 
been successful for adults with orthopedic impairments, and there is 
emerging evidence to suggest that these therapies may improve mobility 
and manipulation among children. In this regard, rehabilitation 
therapies such as constraint-induced therapy (Taub, Ramey, DeLuca, & 
Echols, 2004; Gordon, Charles, & Wolf, 2006), robot-assisted therapy 
(Meyer-Heim et al., 2009), and virtual reality-based therapy (Wille et 
al., 2009) have yet to be fully developed, adapted, and analyzed for 
use with children.


    Code of Federal Regulations. (2008). Education, 34 CFR 300.8.
    Gordon, A.M., Charles, J., & Wolf, S.L. (2006). Efficacy of 
constraint-induced movement therapy on involved upper-extremity use in 
children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy is not age-dependent. 
Pediatrics, Mar, 117.
    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Data. (2007). 
See: Table 1-4 and 1-5.
    Kirby, R.L., MacDonald, B., Smith, C., MacLeod, D.A., & Webber, A. 
(2008). Comparison between a tilt-in-space wheelchair and a manual 
wheelchair equipped with a new rear anti-tip device from the 
perspective of the caregiver. Archives of Physical Medical 
Rehabilitation, September 89(9).
    Machiel Van der Loos, H.F. & Reinkensmeyer, D.J. (2008). 
Rehabilitation and health care robotics. In B. Siciliano & O. Khatib 
(Eds.), Springer Handbook of Robotics (pp. 1235-1239). Springer Berlin 
    Meiser, M.J. & McEwen, I.R. (2007). Lightweight and ultralight 
wheelchairs: Propulsion and preferences of two young children with 
spina bifida. Pediatric Physical Therapy, Fall 19(3).
    Meyer-Heim, A., Ammann-Reiffer, C., Schmartz, A., Sch[auml]fer, J., 
Sennhauser, F.H., Heinen, F., Knecht, B., Dabrowski, E., & Borggraefe, 
I. (2009). Improvement of walking abilities after robotic-assisted 
locomotion training in children with cerebral palsy. Archives of 
Disease in Childhood, August 94(8).
    Taub, E., Ramey, S., DeLuca, S. & Echols, K. (2004). Efficacy of 
constraint-induced movement therapy for children with cerebral palsy 
with asymmetric motor impairment. Pediatrics, 113(2).
    Wille, D., Eng, K., Holper, L., Chevrier, E., Hauser, Y., Kiper, 
D., Pyk, P., Schlegel, S., & Meyer-Heim, A. (2009). Virtual reality-
based paediatric interactive therapy system (PITS) for improvement of 
arm and hand function in children with motor impairment--a pilot study. 
Developmental Neurorehabilitation, January-March 12(1).

Proposed Priority

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services proposes a priority for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research 
Center (RERC) on Technologies for Children with Orthopedic 
Disabilities. This RERC will focus on innovative technologies and new 
knowledge that will improve the lives of children with orthopedic 
disabilities. Under this priority, the RERC must research, develop, 
apply, and evaluate new or existing technologies and approaches to 
improve the availability and usability of assistive devices for 
children with orthopedic disabilities. This work must contribute to the 
improvement of mobility and manipulation functions among children with 
orthopedic disabilities as they perform daily tasks and activities at 
home, at school, and in the community. In addition, the RERC must 
develop, test, and implement rehabilitation therapy technologies and 
strategies for use with children with orthopedic disabilities.
    Requirements applicable to both proposed priorities: The RERC 
established under each of the proposed priorities in this notice must 

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designed to contribute to the following outcomes:
    (1) Increased technical and scientific knowledge relevant to its 
designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this 
outcome by conducting high-quality, rigorous research and development 
    (2) Increased innovation in technologies, products, environments, 
performance guidelines, and monitoring and assessment tools applicable 
to its designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to 
this outcome through the development and testing of these innovations.
    (3) Improved research capacity in its designated priority research 
area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by collaborating with 
the relevant industry, professional associations, institutions of 
higher education, health care providers, or educators, as appropriate.
    (4) Improved awareness and understanding of cutting edge 
developments in technologies within its designated priority research 
area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by identifying and 
communicating with NIDRR, individuals with disabilities, their 
representatives, disability organizations, service providers, 
professional journals, manufacturers, and other interested parties 
regarding trends and evolving product concepts related to its 
designated priority research area.
    (5) Increased impact of research in the designated priority 
research area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by providing 
technical assistance to relevant public and private organizations, 
individuals with disabilities, employers, and schools on policies, 
guidelines, and standards related to its designated priority research 
    (6) Increased transfer of RERC-developed technologies to the 
marketplace. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by developing and 
implementing a plan for ensuring that all technologies developed by the 
RERC are made available to the public. The technology transfer plan 
must be developed in the first year of the project period in 
consultation with the NIDRR-funded Disability Rehabilitation Research 
Project, Center on Knowledge Translation for Technology Transfer.
    In addition, under each priority, the RERC must--
     Have the capability to design, build, and test prototype 
devices and assist in the technology transfer and
knowledge translation of successful solutions to relevant production 
and service delivery settings;
     Evaluate the efficacy and safety of its new products, 
instrumentation, or assistive devices;
     Provide as part of its proposal, and then implement, a 
plan that describes how it will include, as appropriate, individuals 
with disabilities or their representatives in all phases of its 
activities, including research, development, training, dissemination, 
and evaluation;
     Provide as part of its proposal, and then implement, in 
consultation with the NIDRR-funded National Center for the 
Dissemination of Disability Research, a plan to disseminate its 
research results to individuals with disabilities, their 
representatives, disability organizations, service providers, 
professional journals, manufacturers, and other interested parties;
     Conduct a state-of-the-science conference on its 
designated priority research area in the fourth year of the project 
period, and publish a comprehensive report on the final outcomes of the 
conference in the fifth year of the project period; and
     Coordinate research projects of mutual interest with 
relevant NIDRR-funded projects, as identified through consultation with 
the NIDRR project officer.

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 
    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 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 
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 these priorities, 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 
    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 
    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 Programs have been 
well established over the years in that similar projects have been 
completed successfully. These proposed priorities will generate new 
knowledge through research and development. Another benefit of these 
proposed priorities is that the establishment of new RERCs will improve 
the lives of individuals with disabilities. The new RERCs will 
generate, disseminate, and promote the use of new information that will 
improve the options for individuals with disabilities to fully 
participate in their communities.
    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, Potomac Center Plaza, Washington, DC 20202-2550. Telephone: 
(202) 245-7363. If you use a TDD, call the FRS, toll free, at 1-800-
    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

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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.

    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:

    Dated: April 6, 2010.
Alexa Posny,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 2010-8166 Filed 4-8-10; 8:45 am]