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American Council of the Blind President
Mitch Pomerantz displays U.S. currency.

U.S. Paper Currency May Change to Accommodate the Blind

May 22, 2008 06:02 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that U.S. paper currency is discriminatory toward blind people, who have trouble distinguishing among the denominations.

30-Second Summary

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Dozens of countries have made their paper currencies usable by the visually impaired, but the United States hasn’t yet taken such steps. Its paper bills are all the same size and similar in color and texture, which can make them difficult to distinguish without assistance.

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) filed a lawsuit over the issue in 2002 and won its case in 2006. The U.S. Treasury has resisted currency changes, arguing they would place an “undue financial burden” on the government.

However, an appeals court has also said there seems to be no reason the United States can’t follow other countries’ examples. Making paper money more accessible to blind people could involve changing the texture or size of different denominations, or adding other tactile features.

There is disagreement among members of the blind community over whether currency should be changed. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has called the appeals court ruling “profoundly misguided,” and said that it “may unintentionally do real harm to blind Americans.”

Most blind people use paper currency daily without problems, says Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the NFB. He added that there are more pressing issues to address, including unemployment and lack of Internet access for blind people.

The United States can still continue the appeals process. If changes to currency proceed, several industries could be affected, including vending machine manufacturers, producers of money-dispensing automated teller machines and even purse and wallet makers.

Headline Link: Paper money considered discriminatory

Background: Lawsuit for accessible currency

Reactions: Organizations for the blind differ on appeals ruling

Related Topics: Changing U.S. coins, other issues faced by blind individuals

Reference: Making money, resources for the blind

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