[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 81 (Thursday, April 26, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 24934-24938]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-10010]


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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

[CFDA Number 84.133A-01]


Proposed Priority--National Institute on Disability and 
Rehabilitation Research--Disability and Rehabilitation Research 
Projects and Centers Program--Disability and Rehabilitation Research 
Project (DRRP)--Employment of Individuals With Disabilities

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

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services proposes a priority under the Disability and 
Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program administered by 
the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research 
(NIDRR). Specifically, this notice proposes a priority for a Disability 
and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) on Employment of Individuals 
with Disabilities. The

[[Page 24935]]

Assistant Secretary may use this priority for competitions in fiscal 
year (FY) 2012 and later years. We take this action to focus research 
attention on areas of national need. We intend this priority to 
contribute to improved employment outcomes for individuals with 
disability.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before May 29, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Address all comments about this notice to Marlene Spencer, 
U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW., room 5133, 
Potomac Center Plaza (PCP), Washington, DC 20202-2700.
    If you prefer to send your comments by email, use the following 
address: [email protected]. You must include the phrase ``Proposed 
Priority for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities'' in the 
subject line of your electronic message.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marlene Spencer. Telephone: (202) 245-
7532 or by email: [email protected].
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) or a text 
telephone (TTY), 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 currently approved Long-Range Plan (Plan). The 
currently approved 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://www2.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/other/2006-1/021506d.pdf.
    Through the implementation of the currently approved 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 a priority that NIDRR intends to use for a 
DRRP competition in FY 2012 and possibly later years. However, nothing 
precludes NIDRR from publishing additional priorities, if needed. 
Furthermore, NIDRR is under no obligation to make an award using this 
priority. 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 priority, we urge you to identify 
clearly the specific topic that each comment addresses.
    We invite you to assist us in complying with the specific 
requirements of Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 and their 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 5133, 550 12th Street SW., PCP, 
Washington, DC, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 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 improve the effectiveness of services authorized 
under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Rehabilitation Act).

Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects

    The purpose of NIDRR's DRRPs, which are funded through the 
Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program, 
are to improve the effectiveness of services authorized under the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, by developing methods, 
procedures, and rehabilitation technologies that advance a wide range 
of independent living and employment outcomes for individuals with 
disabilities, especially individuals with the most severe disabilities. 
DRRPs carry out one or more of the following types of activities, as 
specified and defined in 34 CFR 350.13 through 350.19: research, 
training, demonstration, development, dissemination, utilization, and 
technical assistance.
    An applicant for assistance under this program must demonstrate in 
its application how it will address, in whole or in part, the needs of 
individuals with disabilities from minority backgrounds (34 CFR 
350.40(a)). The approaches an applicant may take to meet this 
requirement are found in 34 CFR 350.40(b). Additional information on 
the DRRP program can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/res-program.html#DRRP.

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

    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.
    Proposed Priority: This notice contains one proposed priority.

DRRP on Employment of Individuals With Disabilities

Background

    Despite the enactment of legislation and the implementation of a 
variety of policy and program efforts at the Federal and State levels 
to improve employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities, the 
employment rate for individuals with disabilities remains substantially 
lower than the rate for those without disabilities. The economic 
downturn in recent years has resulted in still greater workforce 
disparities. In December 2011, 17.9 percent of persons with a 
disability age 16 years and older were employed, compared to 63.7 
percent of persons without a disability (U.S. Department of Labor, 
2012). Among persons 25 to 54 years of age during the recent recession, 
the unemployment rate of persons with a disability ranged from 2.0 to 
2.3 times that of persons without a disability (Fogg, Harrington, 
McMahon, 2010). These differences in employment and unemployment rates 
exist across all socio-demographic groups. Additionally, the median 
earnings for persons with a disability who are employed are $19,500 per 
year as compared to $29,997 per year earned by persons without a 
disability (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011).
    NIDRR has funded a wide range of disability research and 
development

[[Page 24936]]

projects on employment topics, including on the impact of government 
policies and programs on employment outcomes for individuals with 
disabilities; employer practices and workplace environments; individual 
characteristics that affect employment outcomes of individuals with 
disabilities; technology to support employment outcomes of individuals 
with disabilities; and vocational rehabilitation (VR) practice. NIDRR 
seeks to build on this research by supporting innovative and well-
designed research and development projects that fall under one or more 
general employment topic areas and that focus on a specific stage of 
research (i.e., exploration, intervention development, intervention 
efficacy, and scale-up evaluation). This priority would require a 
project to focus its research or development activities on a general 
employment area or areas and, to the extent an applicant proposes to 
conduct research activities under the priority, require that the 
applicant identify the stage of the proposed research in its 
application. NIDRR hopes to increase competition and innovation by 
allowing applicants to specify the research topics under the broader 
areas of research. NIDRR also hopes to improve the rigor of the 
research it funds by asking applicants to identify and justify the 
stage of research being proposed and the methods appropriate to that 
stage. Through this priority, we would fund projects that are designed 
to identify, develop, test, and evaluate interventions, programs, 
technologies, and products that increase employment rates, hours of 
paid work, earnings and other compensation of individuals with 
disabilities; and improve job and career satisfaction, or other job-
related outcomes of individuals with disabilities.

References

Fogg, N. P., Harrington, P. E., & McMahon, B. T. (2011). The 
underemployment of persons with disabilities during the Great 
Recession. The Rehabilitation Professional, 19(1), 3-10.
U.S. Census Bureau (2010) American Community Survey: Table B18140. 
Available from: http://factfinder.census.gov
U.S. Department of Labor (2012a). Economic News Release: Table A-6. 
Employment status of the civilian population by sex, age, and 
disability status, not seasonally adjusted. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t06.htm
U.S. Department of Labor (2012b). Economic News Release: Table 1. 
Employment status of the civilian noninstitutionalized population by 
disability and selected characteristics. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.t01.htm.

Proposed Priority

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services proposes a priority for a Disability and Rehabilitation 
Research Project (DRRP) on Employment of Individuals with Disabilities. 
The DRRP must contribute to the outcomes of increased employment rates, 
hours of paid work, earnings and other compensation for individuals 
with disabilities as well as improved job and career satisfaction and 
other work-related outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
    (a) To contribute to these outcomes, the DRRP must--
    (1) Conduct research activities, development activities, or both, 
in one or more of the following priority areas:
    (i) The impact of government policies and programs on employment 
outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
    (ii) Employer practices and workplace environments that contribute 
to improved employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
    (iii) Preparedness of individuals with disabilities to participate 
in the current and future workforce.
    (iv) Technology (including the systems that develop, evaluate, and 
deliver the technology) that support improved employment outcomes of 
individuals with disabilities.
    (v) Practices and policies that contribute to improved employment 
outcomes for transition-aged youth.
    (vi) Vocational rehabilitation (VR) practices that result in 
improved employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
    (2) If conducting research under paragraph (a)(1) of this priority, 
focus its research on a specific stage of research. For purposes of 
this priority, the stages of research are as follows:
    (i) Exploration. Exploration means the stage of research that 
generates hypotheses or theories by conducting new and refined analyses 
of data, producing observational findings, and creating other sources 
of research-based information. This research stage may include 
identifying or describing the barriers to and facilitators of improved 
outcomes of individuals with disabilities, as well as identifying or 
describing existing practices, programs, or policies that are 
associated with important aspects of the lives of individuals with 
disabilities. Results achieved under this stage of research may inform 
the development of interventions or lead to evaluations of 
interventions or policies. The results of the exploration stage of 
research may also be used to inform decisions or priorities.
    (ii) Intervention Development. Intervention Development means the 
stage of research that focuses on generating and testing interventions 
that have the potential to improve employment outcomes for individuals 
with disabilities. Intervention development involves determining the 
active components of possible interventions, developing measures that 
would be required to illustrate outcomes, specifying target 
populations, conducting field tests, and assessing the feasibility of 
conducting a well-designed interventions study. Results from this stage 
of research may be used to inform the design of a study to test the 
efficacy of an intervention.
    (iii) Intervention Efficacy. Intervention efficacy means the stage 
of research during which a project evaluates and tests whether an 
intervention is feasible, practical, and has the potential to yield 
positive outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Efficacy research 
may assess the strength of the relationships between an intervention 
and outcomes, and may identify factors or individual characteristics 
that affect the relationship between the intervention and outcomes. 
Efficacy research can inform decisions about whether there is 
sufficient evidence to support ``scaling-up'' an intervention to other 
sites and contexts. This stage of research can include assessing the 
training needed for wide-scale implementation of the intervention, and 
approaches to evaluation of the intervention in real world 
applications.
    (iv) Scale-Up Evaluation. Scale-up evaluation means the stage of 
research during which a project analyzes whether an intervention is 
effective in producing improved outcomes for individuals with 
disabilities when implemented in a real-world setting. During this 
stage of research, a project tests the outcomes of an evidence-based 
intervention in different settings. It examines the challenges to 
successful replication of the intervention, and the circumstances and 
activities that contribute to successful adoption of the intervention 
in real-world settings. This stage of research may also include well-
designed studies of an intervention that has been widely adopted in 
practice, but that lacks a sufficient evidence-base to demonstrate its 
effectiveness.
    (3) Conduct knowledge translation activities (i.e., training, 
technical assistance, utilization, dissemination) in order to 
facilitate stakeholder (e.g., individuals with disabilities, employers, 
policymakers, practitioners) use of the

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interventions, programs, technologies, or products that resulted from 
the research activities, development activities, or both, conducted 
under paragraph (a)(1) of this priority;
    (4) Involve key stakeholder groups in the activities conducted 
under paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) of this priority in order to 
maximize the relevance and usability of the interventions, programs, 
technologies, or products to be developed or studied under this 
priority.
    (b) In its application, an applicant must describe how its proposed 
project will meet this priority. In particular, the applicant must--
    (1) Identify, in its application, the priority area or areas on 
which its proposed research or development activities will focus; and
    (2) If conducting research under paragraph (a)(1) of this priority, 
identify and provide a rationale for the stage of research being 
proposed and the research methods associated with the stage.

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 Orders 12866 and 13563

Regulatory Impact Analysis

    Under Executive Order 12866, the Secretary must determine whether 
this regulatory action is ``significant'' and, therefore, subject to 
the requirements of the Executive order and subject to review by the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Section 3(f) of Executive Order 
12866 defines a ``significant regulatory action'' as an action likely 
to result in a rule that may--
    (1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, 
or adversely affect a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, 
jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local or 
Tribal governments or communities in a material way (also referred to 
as an ``economically significant'' rule);
    (2) Create serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an 
action taken or planned by another agency;
    (3) Materially alter the budgetary impacts of entitlement grants, 
user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients 
thereof; or
    (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal 
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles stated in the 
Executive order.
    This proposed regulatory action is not a significant regulatory 
action subject to review by OMB under section 3(f) of Executive Order 
12866.
    We have also reviewed this regulatory action under Executive Order 
13563, which supplements and explicitly reaffirms the principles, 
structures, and definitions governing regulatory review established in 
Executive Order 12866. To the extent permitted by law, Executive Order 
13563 requires that an agency--
    (1) Propose or adopt regulations only on a reasoned determination 
that their benefits justify their costs (recognizing that some benefits 
and costs are difficult to quantify);
    (2) Tailor its regulations to impose the least burden on society, 
consistent with obtaining regulatory objectives and taking into 
account--among other things and to the extent practicable--the costs of 
cumulative regulations;
    (3) In choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, select 
those approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential 
economic, environmental, public health and safety, and other 
advantages; distributive impacts; and equity);
    (4) To the extent feasible, specify performance objectives, rather 
than the behavior or manner of compliance a regulated entity must 
adopt; and
    (5) Identify and assess available alternatives to direct 
regulation, including economic incentives--such as user fees or 
marketable permits--to encourage the desired behavior, or provide 
information that enables the public to make choices.
    Executive Order 13563 also requires an agency ``to use the best 
available techniques to quantify anticipated present and future 
benefits and costs as accurately as possible.'' The Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB has emphasized that these 
techniques may include ``identifying changing future compliance costs 
that might result from technological innovation or anticipated 
behavioral changes.''
    We are taking this regulatory action only on a reasoned 
determination that its benefits justify its costs. In choosing among 
alternative regulatory approaches, we selected those approaches that 
maximize net benefits. Based on the analysis that follows, the 
Department believes that this proposed priority is consistent with the 
principles in Executive Order 13563.
    We also have determined that this regulatory action would not 
unduly interfere with State, local, and Tribal governments in the 
exercise of their governmental functions.
    In accordance with both Executive orders, the Department has 
assessed the potential costs and benefits of this regulatory action. 
The potential costs associated with this regulatory action are those 
resulting from statutory requirements and those we have determined as 
necessary for administering the Department's programs and activities.
    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. This proposed 
priority would generate new knowledge through research and development. 
Another benefit of this proposed priority is that the establishment of 
new DRRPs would improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. The 
new DRRP would generate, disseminate, and promote the use of new 
information that would improve employment opportunities for individuals 
with disabilities.
    Intergovernmental Review: This program is not subject to Executive

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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 or a TTY, call the FRS, toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.
    Electronic Access to This Document: 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 via the Federal Digital System 
at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys. At this site 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). To use PDF 
you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the 
site. You may also access documents of the Department published in the 
Federal Register by using the article search feature at: 
www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search 
feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published 
by the Department.

    Dated: April 20, 2012.
Sue Swenson,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services, Delegated the Authority to Perform the Functions and Duties 
of Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services.
[FR Doc. 2012-10010 Filed 4-25-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P