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What is an RERC?

Funded by The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), formerly known as NIDRR, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) conduct programs of advanced research of an engineering or technical nature designed to apply advanced technology, scientific achievement, and psychological and social knowledge to solve rehabilitation problems and remove environmental barriers. Each center is affiliated with one or more institutions of higher education or nonprofit organizations. Involved at both the individual and systems levels, RERCs seek to find and evaluate the newest technologies, products, and methods that ultimately can benefit the independence of persons with disabilities and the universal design of environments for all people of all ages. The centers also exchange technical and engineering information worldwide and engage in technology transfer activities to maximize the use of new technology in producing end-user products, both commercialized and non-commercialized, that are readily available for public consumption.

RERC History

In 2004, NIDILRR awarded its first RERC-ACT to the University of Colorado (CU). This prestigious five-year grant was awarded a second time to CU in 2009 (RERC-ACT II). The RERC-ACT I (2004-2009), housed at the Anschutz Medical Campus (AMC), incorporated 1​3 separate projects across the four CU campuses in nine different academic units. Research partners from four other research universities in Illinois, California, Michigan and Kansas also participated. Other collaborators included the Institute for Matching Persons and Technology, Inc., AbleLink Technologies, Inc., AT Sciences, LLC, and CaringFamily, LLC. Projects fell into five categories: needs assessment projects; community living and technology; health, family support and technology; education, employment and technology; and technology standards development.

RERC-ACT II (2009-2014) builds on past successes and introduces new elements of research and development of cognitive technologies across the life span. Efforts have focused on four main areas: creating a product usability testing laboratory to focus rigorous industry-standard product testing protocols on cognitive assistive technology; developing a core software/sensor platform to support mobile animated agents used for multiple work-related applications; developing socially assistive robotics for young children, and developing infrastructure standards, long considered an important missing link for information technology access by people with cognitive disabilities. From non-linear job coaching to Socially Assistive Robots, the projects are challenging, creative and show great promise in improving the quality of life for people with cognitive disabilities, their families and their caregivers. Leveraged by over $1.6 million in additional funds from the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and over $2 million in additional research and program dollars awarded from other sources during the past ten years, the RERC-ACT has continued to work to expand outcomes related to independence in daily activities in the home, community, school, and workplace settings of children and adults with cognitive disabilities.

This project cycle, RERC-ACT III (2014-2019), is designed to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and expertise our team has developed over the past decade. It also reflects the changing landscape in emerging and new technologies; as well as, the growing importance of the role technology plays, or has the potential to play, in the lives of persons with cognitive disabilities around the world. For this project, RERC-ACT III, in addition to our standards work, training, dissemination/ knowledge utilization, and commercialization efforts, we have chosen to complete six highly challenging and important research and development projects​.

​Other RERCs

Since 2008, NIDRR has funded the Knowledge Translation for Technology Transfer (KT4TT) Center to assist RERC grantees in their technology transfer efforts. The following is a list of all current  RERCs:

    • ​RERC on Wearable Robots for Independent Living
    • RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment
    • LiveWell - The Information and Communication Technology RERC for Community Living, Health, and Function
    • RERC on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (The RERC on AAC)
    • RERC: From Cloud to Smartphone – Accessible and Empowering ICT
    • Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Advancing Cognitive Technologies (RERC-ACT)
    • RERC on Improving the Accessibility, Usability, and Performance of Technology for Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH-RERC)
    • RERC on Physical Access and Transportation
    • Technology Increasing Knowledge: Technology Optimizing Choice (TIKTOC) RERC
    • Technologies to Evaluate and Advance Mobility and Manipulation (TEAMM) RERC
    • RERC on Universal Interface and Information Technology Access
    • RERC on Technologies to Support Successful Aging with Disability (RERC TechSAge)
    • DRRP on Universal Design Practices to Enhance Work Outcomes
    • Machines Assisting Recovery from Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury for Reintegration into Society (MARS3)
    • RERC for Wireless Technologies
    • RERC: Develop and Evaluate Technology for Low Vision, Blindness, and Multi-Sensory Loss
    • RERC on Universal Design in the Built Environment