NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 30, 2006

A federal judge ruled that the U.S. Treasury Department must change currencies so blind people can use them, says Jen Haberkorn in the Washington Times.

The American Council of the Blind, which filed the suit in 2002, proposed a number of solutions that are used in other countries:

  • In Britain, each denomination is a different size, said Melanie Brunson, the Washington association's executive director.
  • In Canada, currency has a series of dots in its corners, differentiated by denomination.
  • Other countries use different patterns of raised dots or lines.

But government attorneys argued that adding texture or changing the size of bills would be costly, for example:

  • Changing the size of currency could cost up to $228 million in initial costs and $52 million annually to make currency in different sizes.
  • The least expensive change, adding a raised numeral, would cost $45.5 million initially and $16 million annually.
  • The government estimated it would have to spend another $70 million to $90 million in public education for any changes.

Federal lawyers also insisted that changes would make it harder to prevent counterfeiting.  But ultimately, the judge decided that if other countries can print denominations that blind people can use without counterfeiting problems, then so can the United States.

In addition, the judge noted additional savings could be gained by incorporating the new feature into a larger redesign, such as those that took place in 1996 or 2004 -- in which color and larger faces were inserted on bills to prevent counterfeiting -- the total burden of adding such a feature would be even smaller.

Source: Jen Haberkorn, "Currency changes ordered to help blind," Washington Times, November 29, 2006.


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