Section 21 Program


The Section 21 program, mandated by the Rehabilitation Act, requires NIDILRR to set aside one percent of its annual appropriations to address traditionally underserved populations. It focuses on research capacity building for minority entities, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities and institutions, serving primarily Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian or Alaska Native students, and non-minority entities with an interest in improving understanding about the needs and outcomes of individuals with disabilities from minority populations.

How to Apply


Program activities include assisting minority entities with networking that supports enhanced collaboration between minority entities and non-minority entities, and the exchange of expertise and advanced training across program areas.

NIDILRR's Section 21 program includes grants from across NIDILRR's other grant funding mechanisms, i.e., Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers, Advanced Rehabilitation Research and Training centers, Field-Initiated Projects. Currently the following seven grantees comprise the program:

Select Accomplishments for FY 2015

National Investigation of Factors that Contribute to Minority Disability and Rehabilitation Research Leaders’ Career Development and Success

Langston University (Grant #90RT5024)

Langston University conducted a study to document factors that contribute to the career development and overall success of research leaders from traditionally underrepresented populations. This study involved the analysis of qualitative data from in-depth telephone interviews with 15 minority disability, health, and rehabilitation research leaders from around the country. Among several individual sociocultural-level key findings, many interviewees identified cultural, language, and family life issues, and the lack of collaboration opportunities among colleagues as critical research career development challenges.

The institutional-level research environment obstacles to career development identified by informants included bureaucracies, alienation, heavy teaching loads, insufficient research support funds, racial and ethnic discrimination, limited research mentorship opportunities, unhealthy competition, and the lack of a critical mass of researchers of color.

Interviewee responses raised two issues growing out of federal research agency policy and systems: (1) the current inadequate supply of minority research leaders, and (2) the lack of equal opportunity in access to funding and resources.

A manuscript developed from the synthesis of the literature was accepted for publication in the Journal of Rehabilitation.

Additionally, the RRTC is conducting a qualitative case study into the effects of the Institutional Research Capacity-Building and Infrastructure Model on research participation. Study findings will have implications for the development of strategies to improve core research skills, administration practices, and many other areas.

Advanced Research Training Provided to Researchers Focusing on TBI and Sports-Related Concussion

University of Texas – El Paso (UTEP) (Grant #90AR5016)

UTEP is providing a multidisciplinary training for postdoctoral research Fellows to develop advanced scientific methodological skills in a community-based research setting. Training Fellows have engaged in projects focusing on motor speech disorders, the bilingual impact on baseline testing, developing an inexpensive procedure for assessing balance, investigating simple word recall procedure for identification of concussion, and more.

One research Fellow designed and initiated a research project in a partnering district investigating the academic and social performance impact of sports-related concussion among high school student-athletes. Of the six postdoctoral Fellows expected to be recruited for UTEP’s training program, two have accepted faculty positions after a year of supported training.


Contact Shelley Reeves at NIDILRR if you have questions about the Section 21 Program.

Last modified on 03/27/2017

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