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Proposed Priority and Definition-Activities for Underserved Populations (Public Comment Period closes March 10, 2023) 

The purpose of this program is to make awards to minority entities and Indian Tribes to conduct research, training and technical assistance, or a related activity to improve the quality, access, delivery of services, and competitive integrated employment outcomes under the Rehabilitation Act, especially for individuals with disabilities from underserved populations. For this priority, as discussed further in the Supplementary Information section of the notice, we propose to define “underserved populations” to mean “Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color.” The Department may use the proposed priority and definition for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2023 and later years.

The purpose of the proposed priority, together with the proposed definition, is to improve the delivery of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services to, and employment outcomes of, individuals with disabilities from underserved populations. The proposed priority would support training and technical assistance for a minimum of 15 State VR agencies (Combined, General, or Agencies for the Blind) over a five-year period so that the agencies are equipped to serve as role models for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the workforce system by implementing policies, practices, and service delivery approaches designed to contribute to increasing competitive integrated employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities from underserved populations. Further, the proposed priority would require contributions to VR research and pedagogical practices that promote access to approaches that are racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically inclusive.

The Department invites comments regarding the proposed priority and definition. To ensure that your comments have maximum effect in developing the final priority and definition, we urge you to clearly identify the parts of the proposed priority or definition that each comment addresses. More details about the proposed priority and definition and instructions for submitting public comments is contained in the notice.