About the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)

ACL's National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) is the federal government’s primary disability research organization. NIDILRR is part of the Administration for Community Living.

Explore the information and resources on this page to learn more about what NIDILRR is, what we do, and why we do it. To make your exploration journey more efficient, use the hyperlinked table of contents below.



Noteworthy From NIDILRR

NIDILRR's Mission

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

NIDILRR achieves this mission by:

  • funding research, demonstration, training, technical assistance and related activities to maximize the full inclusion and integration into society, employment, independent living, family support, and economic and social self-sufficiency of individuals with disabilities of all ages;
  • promoting the transfer of, use and adoption of rehabilitation technology for individuals with disabilities in a timely manner; and
  • ensuring the widespread distribution, in usable formats, of practical scientific and technological information.

NIDILRR addresses a wide range of disabilities and impairments across populations of all ages.

NIDILRR’s Unique Role

Across NIDILRR’s agenda, the central focus is on the whole person with a disability, whose ability to function and quality of life are dependent on the complex interactions among personal, societal, and environmental factors.

NIDILRR plays a unique role in that its target population includes all disability types and all age groups. Whereas other federal research entities fund prevention, cure, and acute rehabilitation research, NIDILRR also invests in rehabilitation research that is tied more closely to longer-term outcomes, such as independence, community participation, and employment.

NIDILRR Funding/Grant Opportunities

NIDILRR Programs

NIDILRR Publications and Other Resources

For the latest information on NIDILRR publications and other resources, visit our NIDILRR Publications and Other Resources' Page.

NIDILRR's History

As a result of the Rehabilitation, Comprehensive Services, and Developmental Disabilities amendments of 1978 (P.L. 95—602), which amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the National Institute on Handicapped Research (NIHR) was created.

NIHR was charged with the prime responsibility of providing the required knowledge for defining needs, and of identifying the means for improving services to individuals with disabilities. NIHR was the result of intense effort by voluntary agencies of and for persons with disabilities, Congress, and the administration of the time.

According to Leclair (1979), the original goal of NIHR was to focus in one agency a strong commitment to carry on a major program of research on all aspects of disability and the attendant socio-economic implications of the problems encountered by individuals with disabilities.

The scope of activities prescribed for NIHR was all encompassing and cut across practically every facet of rehabilitation and habilitation research activities imaginable, with no limitations in terms of type of disability, age, or intended goals. Finally NIHR was created, not to duplicate services but rather to ensure that NIHR could proceed with “full authority if research programs were found inadequate or non-existent in a specific area of concern.

NIHR retained most of the programs originally conducted by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) such as the Rehabilitation Engineering Centers (RECs), the Research and Training Centers (RTC), and the array of discrete psycho-social, vocational, and medical project grants that RSA and its predecessors had been conducting, in one form or other, since 1935.

Some new initiatives and changes that NIHR spear-headed included, but were not limited to:

  • Research that improved the rehabilitation and habilitation of children with disabilities as well as older Americans with disabilities
  • Conduct of model research and training centers on innovative programs and techniques for evaluating, training, and placing individuals with disabilities in productive work;
  • Conduct of a research program to determine ways to train and retain rehabilitation professionals to serve in rural areas;
  • Development and implementation of a public education program, based on research results, to inform the public about the needs, concerns and problems of individuals with disabilities including information relating to family care, self-care, and preventative aspects of rehabilitation and habilitation;
  • Establishment of a program to improve the development, evaluation, production, and distribution of technological systems and devices that could improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities;
  • Development, in conjunction with other federal agencies, of statistical reports on the employment, health, income, and other demographic characteristics of individuals with disabilities; and
  • The conduct of projects by private profit-making organizations, non-profit public entities, as well with universities.

In 1986, again as a result of amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, NIHR would become known as the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). Since its initial creation as NIHR in 1978, and its name change and expansion to NIDRR in 1986, NIDRR’s basic purpose and reason for being has not changed much. Expressed using updated terminology to reflect current times, NIDRR’s mission still remains to generate new knowledge and to promote its effective use to improve the abilities of people with disabilities to perform activities of their choice in the community. NIDRR still sponsors research and development in broad outcome domains of health and function, employment, and participation and community living. And ultimately NIDRR still remains committed to expanding society’s capacity to provide full opportunities and accommodations for its citizens with disabilities

And now, with the passage of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, NIDRR has a new home in the Administration for Community Living within the Department of Human Services as well as a new name — the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

NIDILRR Planning Documents

NIDILRR has several documents that inform and guide its planning efforts; they are each described in a section below.

NIDILRR's Long-Range Plan

The legislative requirements governing NIDILRRs Long Range plan are described in 29 U.S.C. 762(h).

The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) at ACL has published a new Long-Range Plan for 2018-2023.

NIDILRR’s 2018-2023 Long-Range Plan presents a five-year agenda that will advance applied disability, independent living, and rehabilitation research. NIDILRR intends for this plan to emphasize consumer relevance and scientific rigor, to present an agenda that is scientifically sound and accountable and, as a result, to contribute to the refinement of national policy affecting people with disabilities.

The new Long-Range Plan builds on the work of the 2013–2017 Long-Range Plan while responding to new developments in the disability, independent living, and rehabilitation research field and in government. It continues to stress the importance of NIDILRR’s significant role as a research institute in the public interest, carrying out a scientific research agenda to meet the diverse needs of people with disabilities.

The new Long-Range Plan extends NIDILRR’s emphasis on research outcome domains of community living and participation, health and function, and employment. It also reinforces the need for investment in three areas that support outcomes across these domains: technology for access and function; disability statistics; and a nationwide network of technical assistance, training, and research centers to support implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Activities that promote the quality and use of NIDILRR-sponsored research—capacity building and knowledge translation—will also continue under the new Long-Range Plan.

The new Long-Range Plan also includes themes that emerged from public input, the state of people with disabilities in the U.S., federal research planning, key accomplishments of NIDILRR grantees since the last plan, and a detailed research agenda.

View NIDILRR’s 2018-2023 Long-Range Plan.

Read NIDILRR's previous Long-Range Plan for Fiscal Years 2013-2017.

NIDILRR's Logic Model

The logic model was designed by Dr. Margaret Campbell, former NIDILRR Senior Scientist and Evaluation Lead with assistance from Dr. William Schutz , back in 2005. The logic model is composed of various elements and the interrelationships among them.

The entire logic model focuses on NIDILRR’s targeted outcome arenas and does not provide information on inputs, activities, and outputs. The omission of these other elements found in traditional logic models was intentional because at the time our goal was to develop a one-page tool that helped us visualize our outcomes. Additionally, we intended to add information on inputs, activities, outputs, but did not include them because that section of the logic of the logic model had not been fully developed at the time of publication in the Federal Register.

NIDILRR’s Logic Model, (formerly NIDRR in 2006) was included in our 2005-2009 Long-Range Plan as an appendix. The entire Long-Range Plan was published in Volume 71, Number 31 of the Federal Register on Wednesday February 15, 2006.

A textual description of the logic model is presented below for visitors using assistive technologies such as screen readers

  • The NIDILRR logic identifies NIDILRR's targeted outcome arenas. The first textbox at the top of says situation: significant gaps exist in knowledge, skills, policy, and practice and system capacity that prevent people with disabilities from having equal opportunities for employment, health and function and participation.
  • Now going from left to right there are six text boxes with forward-pointing arrows connecting them.
    • The first box is labeled Short-term outcome arenas which are advances in understanding, knowledge, skills, and learning systems that happen via our capacity building, research and development, and knowledge translation efforts. Our research and development efforts produce discoveries, theories, measures, and methods, and interventions, devices, and environmental adaptations.
    • The second textbox is labeled intermediate Beneficiaries which include researchers, clinicians, service providers, educators, policy experts, federal and non-federal partners, industry representatives and product developers, employers, media, consumer advocates, and people with disabilities and family members. In short, intermediate beneficiaries re those that benefit from our short-term outcome arenas.
    • The third text box is labeled Intermediate Outcome Arenas which show adoption and use of new knowledge leading to changes and improvements in policy, practice, behavior, and system capacity.
    • The fourth text box is labeled Intended Beneficiaries which are people with disabilities and family members.
    • The fifth text box is labeled Long-Term Outcome Arenas which is where changes in overall conditions happen. Changes in overall conditions include the elimination of disparities between people with disabilities and the general population in the following areas employment, participation and community living, and health and function.
    • The sixth and final text box is labeled Major Domains of NIDILRR's mission. A Venn diagram with three intersecting circles represent our major life domains: employment, participation and community living, and health and function. And this Venn diagram is encircled by the domains of technology and demographics because these last domains affect three major life domains in the Venn diagram.
    • At the bottom of those six main boxes is a long rectangular box labeled performance assessment and outcomes evaluation. This long rectangular box has arrows pointing upward to the six text boxes.
    • And just below the box labeled performance assessment and outcomes evaluation is an even longer rectangular box (with arrows pointing upward) labeled contextual factors. Contextual factors include variable funding; scientific and technological advancements; societal attitudes; economic conditions; changing public policies; coordination and cooperation with other government entities.

NIDILRR's Research and Development Frameworks

NIDILRR funds research and development efforts that are aimed at generating new knowledge and promoting its use and adoption among a variety of internal and external stakeholders that make up the disability and rehabilitation community.

These research and development efforts must be guided and informed by the use of frameworks. NIDILRR has one framework to guide its research-funded efforts and one framework to guide its development-funded efforts.

To learn more about these frameworks visit NIDILRR's Frameworks' page

NIDILRR's Legislation and Policy Regulations

The Basic Business of NIDILRR According to Its Legislative Mandate

The core business of NIDILRR is to award grants and contracts to “states and public or private agencies and organizations, including institutions of higher education, Indian tribes and tribal organizations.” These entities are then supposed to use this money to plan and conduct research, demonstration projects, training and related activities designed 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 significant disabilities; and

- Improve the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation and other rehabilitation services. Source: 29 USC Section 764.

The Rules that Help Translate the Intent of the Law Into Agency Operating Guidelines

The Code of Federal Regulations (known as CFR) are the rules that help translate the intent of a Law into broad agency operating guidelines. With its move to the Administration for Community Living within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) consolidated its Code of Federal Regulations in one place. This new place is 45 CFR Part 1330. Read about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Final Rule that created these new regulations.

The Creation of NIDILRR and Its Legislative Mandate

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) is a federal government agency that came into existence in 1978 within the U.S. Department of Education, and continues to operate today under a federal law known as Title II of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law became part of the United States Code (USC) and NIDILRR’s mandate and mission is described in Title 29, Chapter 16, Subchapter II, Section 762. View the contents of this section of the US Code from U.S. Government Printing Office.

NIDILRR's Leadership and Staff

The Director of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) is Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt. Dr. Forber-Pratt's biography is available on the Administration for Community Living's Leadership Page. If you would like to contact any member of NIDILRR's leadership, you can send an email to NIDILRR's general email box at nidilrr-mailbox@acl.hhs.gov

Dr. Kristi Hill is NIDILRR's Deputy Director.

Dr. Phillip Beatty is NIDILRR's Director of the Office of Research Sciences.

Lavonnia Villanueva is NIDILRR Director of the Office of Research Administration

NIDILRR Staff are administratively assigned to one of three NIDILRR offices: the Office of the Director, the Office of Research Sciences, and the Office of Research Administration. However, the day-to-day functioning at NIDILRR is tightly integrated, and staff work together across NIDILRR and all of ACL to achieve agency goals and objectives.

Contact NIDILRR

Several ways exist to contact NIDILRR.

Via Web Form: Since NIDILRR is part of the Administration for Community Living, you can use ACL's Contact Us Form. Note: This contact us form is monitored by ACL. When you submit a request through this form, the request will get routed to most appropriate NIDILRR staff person.

Call ACL/NIDILRR: You can call ACL's main number (202) 401-4634. Select Option5 (National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research when prompted. Your call will be routed to a NIDILRR staff person who can provide you with further information, or direct you to the appropriate NIDILRR staff person who can assist you further.

By Fax: Our fax number is 202-205-0392

Email NIDILRR  To email NIDILRR directly, you can send an email to NIDILRR's general email box at nidilrr-mailbox@acl.hhs.gov.  When you send an email to this email address, your request is analyzed and directed to the most appropriate NIDILRR staff person for further action.

By Mail: Our mailing address is:
National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research
Administration for Community Living
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
330 C Street SW, Room 1304
Washington, DC 20201

In-Person: All visits to our physical location must be previously arranged with ACL/NIDILRR. If you are interested in arranging an in-person visit, call (202) 401-4634. Select Option 5 (National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research) when prompted. Your call will be routed to a NIDILRR staff person who will work with you to set-up an in-person visit. If you do not wish to call to arrange an in-person visit, you can email NIDILRR directly at nidilrr-mailbox@acl.hhs.gov.  

Questions about NIDILRR-related publications, our Program Directory, NIDILRR-funded resources, or general questions about disability information: You may wish to contact the NIDILRR-funded National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC). If you want to contact a NARIC Information Specialist, visit their AskMe Page for more information.

Need Information About Services and Supports: We suggest that you consult ACL's Finding Help for Yourself or a Loved One Page.

General Inquiries About ACL: If you have a general inquiry about ACL, you may use ACL's Contact Us Form. Your inquiry will be routed to the most appropriate ACL staff person for further action.

Still Cannot Find You Are Looking For on this Page or the ACL.gov Website: try ACL's A to Z Topic Index Page. Still need more help finding what you are looking for? Email aclinfo@acl.hhs.gov.

NIDILRR's Library and National Information Center

The National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) is NIDILRR's library and national information center. NARIC works for NIDILRR under Contract No. To learn more about what they can do for you, view their entry in NIDILRR's Online Program Directory.

If you want the help of a NARIC Information Specialist, you might want to consult their AskMe Page.


Last modified on 04/27/2022


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