ACL Announces Final Rule that Advances Equity in NIDILRR Peer Review Criteria

August 15, 2022

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has published a final rule governing research funded by its National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). This final rule follows input from the public on a proposed rule published earlier this year.  

The final rule contains two significant changes.  

First, the final rule advances equity in the “Project Staff” peer review criteria that NIDILRR uses to evaluate disability research applications across all of its research programs. This change will allow NIDILRR to better evaluate the extent to which grant applicants conduct outreach to people with disabilities and people from other groups that traditionally have been underserved and underrepresented.  

In addition, the final rule makes changes to emphasize the need for appropriate engineering research and development activities within NIDILRR’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERC) program.

“ACL is committed to advancing equity in all of our work, consistent with Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” said Acting ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging Alison Barkoff. “By encouraging representation of disabled researchers and those from other underrepresented groups, this final rule will strengthen the quality and breadth of NIDILRR-funded research.” 

“Both changes were needed,” said NIDILRR Director Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt. “The first change disaggregates disability from other underserved populations in the Project Staff peer review criterion so we can more directly evaluate and score the extent to which applicants describe their outreach practices and encourage applications for employment from people with disabilities and from other underrepresented groups separately and distinctly. This aligns with our goal of ensuring people with disabilities are involved throughout the entire research process across NIDILRR-funded projects. The second change will enable reviewers to evaluate the extent to which applicants are proposing appropriate engineering knowledge and methods as part of their RERC applications. We found that the absence of such engineering-focused criteria led to some RERC grants not optimally using the engineering R&D methods envisioned in the program’s authorizing statute.”

This final rule is part of ACL’s broader equity-focused work to ensure that community living is an option for everyone, and these regulatory changes add to NIDILRR’s research programs long-standing goals of advancing equity and increasing the representation of people with disabilities among the research teams NIDILRR funds. Other recent initiatives include three new Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers addressing equity and a new National Center for Disability, Equity and Intersectionality.

View the final rule.


Last modified on 08/15/2022


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