The purpose of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) program is to improve the effectiveness of services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act by conducting advanced engineering research and development of innovative technologies designed to solve particular rehabilitation problems or remove environmental barriers.
RERCs also demonstrate and evaluate such technologies, facilitate service delivery systems changes, stimulate the production and distribution of equipment in the private sector, and provide training opportunities to enable individuals (including individuals with disabilities) to become researchers and practitioners of rehabilitation technology. Awards are normally made for a five-year period.
How to Apply
Eligible applicants are states; public or private agencies, including for-profit agencies; public or private organizations, including for-profit organizations; institutions of higher education; and Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations.
As a rough guideline, check the preceding link between October and April every year.
View the Guide to Applying for some helpful application tips.
RERC program funding mechanism accounted for 15% of NIDILRR grant funding for FY 2015.
16 Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers are currently or newly-funded. Source: NIDILRR Online Program Directory maintained by the National Rehabilitation Information Center for NIDILRR. This search was run on October 21, 2016.
RERCs generate new knowledge that informs the construction of new, or the modification of existing, standards in the field of disability and rehabilitation. One of many examples on how RERCs contribute to the development of standards is the work related to the American National Standards Institute: WC19 Standard—Wheelchairs Used as Seats in Motor Vehicles.
RERC grantees also do a lot of development work. In 2015, 100% of the RERC grantees (21/21) reported conducting a total of 81 development projects. Source: NIDILRR Online Program Performance Reports 2015— Table 11. Characteristics of Grantees' Development Projects, by Program Mechanism
Select Accomplishments for FY 2015
- “Tiramisu” App Assists Individuals with Disabilities and Others to Effectively Access Public Transportation
Carnegie Mellon University: RERC on Accessible Public Transportation (Grant #90RE5011)
Researchers at the RERC on Accessible Public Transportation continue to refine a Smartphone application system called Tiramisu (“pick me up” in Italian) that enables urban bus transit riders to provide real-time information about the bus on which they are riding. This includes delays, seating availability, and accessibility problems.
Riders use their free Tiramisu Smartphone app to send this information to the Tiramisu system, which in turn makes this information available to potential riders via the Internet. This allows riders to engage in a collaborative relationship with transit providers to identify and resolve accessibility barriers they encounter and to increase transit agency awareness of issues with service quality.
An early iteration of Tiramisu placed second in the Intelligent Transportation Society of America Best New Innovative Products, Services or Applications category in 2011.
A brief description of the app is available at http://www.hcii.cmu.edu/news/stories/tiramisu-app-wins-fcc-chairmans-award.
- Inventors and Small Business Partner to Develop Walker that Helps Individuals Come to Standing Position
Georgia Institute of Technology: RERC for Wheeled Mobility in Everyday Life (Grant #90RE5000)
The RERC for Wheeled Mobility in Everyday Life, via a design competition involving inventors and small businesses, designed and developed the Stand-Up Walker as part of the inventor-driven design project of the RERC.
The device helps individuals with mobility issues rise from a seated position. Inventors presented their ideas to RERC staff consisting of engineers, scientists, and clinicians, and were provided with feedback addressing technical, clinical, and policy issues related to the design.
The winning inventor, Howard Liles, fabricated the prototype Walker while the RERC organized meetings with physical therapists to get feedback on the device. This led to the identification of design revisions that were later incorporated into several prototype iterations.
Urise Products was the start-up that licensed the Walker, completed the production design and launched the product. Additional information can be found at: http://www.standupwalker.com/ourstory/ and http://www.uriseproducts.com/.
- New Book Offers Multidisciplinary Perspective on Transitional Care in Osteogenesis Imperfecta
Marquette University: RERC on Technologies for Children with Orthopedic Disabilities (Grant #90RE5006)
Fellows from the RERC on Technologies for Children with Orthopedic Disabilities, ARRT in Pediatric Mobility for Physicians and Engineers, ARRT in Pediatric to Adult Transition, and Marquette University contributed to the development of a book entitled Transitional Care in Osteogenesis Imperfecta: Advances in Biology, Technology and Clinical Practice.
The work is particularly powerful because it brings together perspectives and research from multiple professional groups and disciplines, including surgeons, clinicians, scientists, and engineers. Additionally, the work integrates technology, orthopedic, and genetic chapters with an eye toward a transitional care continuum.
The work is particularly powerful because it brings together perspectives and research from multiple professional groups and disciplines, including surgeons, clinicians, scientists, and engineers. Additionally, the work integrates technology, orthopedic, and genetic chapters with an eye toward a transitional care continuum. As the authors note, osteogenesis imperfecta is a difficult genetic condition that changes over time, resulting in the need for transitional care that addresses the many challenges that people with the condition face. By combining such a range of perspectives and backgrounds, the book offers a unique insight into the condition and ways of improving care and solving problems in the pediatric-to-adult environment.
The book is available online at http://www.tech4pod.org.
- Telecommunications Industry of America Technology and Standards Secretariat Publishes New Standard for Magnetic Performance between Handsets and Hearing Devices
Board of Regents at the University of Wisconsin: RERC on Telecommunications Access (Grant #90RE5003)
The Secretariat for the Telecommunications Industry of America Technology and Standards published the standard TIA-1803-B, specifying the testing standards for the magnetic performance between handsets and headsets. This revision widened the scope of previous iterations to include testing standards for wideband audio.
The RERC on Telecommunications Access at the University of Wisconsin played a key role in establishing this standard. In fact, the decision to include support for wideband magnetic performance and use real speech in test signals was based on a study conducted by the RERC. Wideband audio significantly increases the quality of speech understood by people with hearing loss, reduces mental effort and improves the effectiveness of handsets and hearing devices.
Recent hearing devices now support the frequencies used in wideband audio and this standard helps to formalize the testing procedures used for these devices.
Telecommunications Industry of America standard documents can be purchased by visiting https://www.ihs.com/products/tia-standards.html.
Contact Thomas Corfman at NIDILRR if you have questions about the RERC Program funding mechanism.