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Disability Research Priorities Proposed

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (SERS) has proposed priorities for research to improve rehabilitation outcomes and to assist in improving research processes.

Under the Department of Education, SERS proposes four priorities for the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) Program administered by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

The four priorities are: Living and Participation of Individuals with Physical Disabilities; Employment of Individuals with Physical Disabilities; Health and Function of Individuals with Intellectual and Development Disables; and Community Living and Participation for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

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 methods 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 for integrating research and practice; and (6) disseminate findings," according to SERS.

The RRTCs are funded through the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program and is intended to achieve the goals of, and improve the effectiveness of, services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act through advanced research, training, technical assistance and dissemination activities in general problem areas as specified by NIDRR.

"These activities are designed to benefit rehabilitation service providers, individuals with disabilities and family members or other authorized representatives of individuals with disabilities," SERS said.

States are required to provide services to the disabled under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1999 "Olmstead" decision.

According to SERS, there are 51.5 million Americans with disabilities, 41.5 million of those physical related. In 2010, over 8 million adults were estimated to need personal assistance from a family member, friend or paid helper in order to live in the community due to difficulties in performing basic activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, toileting and getting around in the home, according to SERS.

According to SERS, "people with physical disabilities continue to encounter significant barriers to living in the community and participating in activities of their choice."

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