T Nation

U.S. Money Violates Right of Blind


I found this pretty interesting, especially since I have some old South African currency lying around from the late 1990s that is very easy to distinguish apart for both blind and non-blind alike.

summary of countries and the currency and how it is accessible to the blind, circa 1995:


trying to find a new 1, since I know the U.S. has made changes since then. Although it is interesting to see which countries beat USA at the time.

[quote]Ren wrote:

Federal Court Holds U.S. Currency Violates the Rights of the Blind

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has held that U.S. paper money violates the Rehabilitation Act because different denominations cannot be easily distinguished by blind and visually impaired people.

As the court notes, blind people are forced to resort to an “impressive array of coping mechanisms” such as folding different denominations in different ways or carrying an electronic scanning device at all times, in order to function in the marketplace. These coping mechanisms often require blind consumers to ask sighted persons for assistance in sorting or otherwise identifying their money, and make them easy victims of fraud.

Given these burdens, the court held that the blind lack “meaningful access” to U.S. currency in violation of Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In so holding, the court noted that one purpose of this act was to “empower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society.” Given this goal, the court held that a blind person cannot have meaningful access to currency “if she cannot accurately identify paper money without assistance.”

As the Rehabilitation Act also requires the court to consider whether providing meaningful access to a benefit would place an “undue burden” on the government, the court also considered the burden which making money accessible to the blind would place on the government. According to the court, the total cost of such upgrades would be less than five percent of the total cost of currency production during the last two redesigns of U.S. currency. This, this court held, did not place an undue burden on the government.

As a final note, the court noted that America is unusual among its peer nations in not producing currency accessible to the blind:

The Euro varies in size based on denomination: the greater the value of the note, the greater the length. The i5, i10, i20, i50, and i100 notes also vary in height. Euro Vision, Understanding Euro Notes and Coins, a Guide for People with Poor Vision, [#35-26, at 5]. Euros also possess tactile features: each bill includes a large, raised numeral designed to be perceptible to touch, at least when the banknotes are new, id. at 4, and a foil feature that can be identified by touch; the foil feature on the smaller notes ? i5, i10, i20 ? is of a different shape and in a different location than those on the larger ones. Id. at 6.

The Swiss Franc contains intaglio digits and a perforated numeral that can be identified by touch. Copy of Swiss Bank Note, [#35-41]. Japan, in a new design for the Yen, has incorporated a tactile feature in the ?10,000, ?5,000 and ?1,000 notes, different for each note, that has a rougher texture than the rest of the bill. Security Features of the New Bank of Japan Notes, [#35-40].

The Canadian Dollar also contains tactile features. On the upper right corner on the face of each bill is a series of raised symbols separated by a smooth surface, which differ according to denomination. The $5 note has one raised symbol, the $10 note has two such symbols, and so forth. The Bank Canada also provides (free to blind and low vision individuals) an electronic hand-held note reader. Bank of Canada, Accessibility Features, [#35-28].

Australia?s dollars differ in color and size. English Pound notes vary in color and size and contain tactile symbols. Chinese currency differs in color and possesses a tactile symbol, as does the currency in Argentina and Israel. Saudi Arabia?s currency varies in color and size. NAS Study at 106-112.

I found this pretty interesting, especially since I have some old South African currency lying around from the late 1990s that is very easy to distinguish apart for both blind and non-blind alike.[/quote]

All I know is now I won’t be able to have all my money fit in my wallet right.


George Bush hates blind people.

[quote]Hack Wilson wrote:
George Bush hates blind people.[/quote]

Wouldn’t matter if he did…

The Fed is not under executive control.

This post has some interesting background information on the legal ruling:


Activist judges…

Who still uses cash?

Who still uses cash?[/quote]

What is this “cash” thing everyone keeps talking about?

[quote]vroom wrote:
Activist judges…[/quote]

My thoughts exactly.

[quote]nephorm wrote:
vroom wrote:
Activist judges…

My thoughts exactly.[/quote]

Thoughts on the rehabilitation act?

You can read the opinion:


One problem: the court essentially says blind people do not have “meaningful access” to the currency - but the opinion never says why. The court just concludes it and moves along to whether requiring the government to change the currency is an undue burden.

Damn. I bet no one saw that one coming.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Thoughts on the rehabilitation act?[/quote]

I think it is a legislative and judicial problem. Rather than think through the consequences of legislation and mandating/recommending specific changes, it’s much easier to pass something ambiguous and broad, and then let the bureaucrats, press, interested groups, and courts sort it out.

And judges, rather than ruling that legislation is so non-specific as to be unworkable, go right ahead with pushing their political agendas through.

Like it or not, it is the job of the judicial system to determine what is or is not “meaningful access”.

If they feel they are able to do so, and that it isn’t unclear to them, then they have an obligation to go forward and apply the laws as they interpret them.

Seriously, you may have an issue with the legislation in place, but it’s just as much a political agenda to suddenly decide that judges are unable to make any interpretations at all.

Language is imprecise. Laws are imprecise. This will never go away. The judicial system INTERPRETS the laws. It always has.

It’s not a stretch to imagine that meaningful access means the ability to determine what you actually have. If so, given the nature of the act, you then have to look into whether or not it is an undue burden for the government to provide such meaningful access.

I’d guess, given costs, and the fact most other governments already do this, that it really isn’t an undue burden.

Don’t you guys have better things to whine about? Perhaps you should write to your legislators and get them to repeal this law so that you won’t have to worry about the ability of blind people to integrate more fully into society.

I mean, are you arguing that if I have something in my hand and I can’t tell what it is, that I have MEANINGFUL access to it? Obviously, that’s a loaded term, implying at lot more than simple ability to hold it in my hands.

What a bunch of nitwits. Blame the legislators on this one, if you really feel there is anyone to blame, not the judicial system.

Finally, on another note, does anyone disagree with the idea of putting bumps or perforations on the bills so that they can be read?

Personally, I’d rather not have money of different sizes either, as that would cause issues for handling, both personally and with respect to automated systems.

Really, I have to ask, is this griping another example of the boatloads of compassion I keep hearing about? Compassion my hairy ass!

[quote]vroom wrote:
Don’t you guys have better things to whine about? [/quote]

I don’t see anyone whining. I see a bunch of smart-assed responses, and one complaint from me about the failures of our legislatures and judicial system.

Oh, I went and followed the link and the same issues were discussed… about how incorrect the judgment was.

Sorry man, didn’t mean to pile it all up on your plate.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Oh, I went and followed the link and the same issues were discussed… about how incorrect the judgment was.

Sorry man, didn’t mean to pile it all up on your plate.[/quote]

Gotcha. I try to avoid most of the comments left on blogs, so I didn’t follow.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Oh, I went and followed the link and the same issues were discussed… about how incorrect the judgment was.[/quote]

Is disagreeing with the ruling whining?

On a completely practical note, I’ll point out that changing the size of bills is no small thing.

There is an entire infrastructure built around the particular size of a $US dollar, and around the fact that all US bills are identical in size. It will be quite expensive for a lot of people/companies if their ATM machines, cash registers, bill acceptors, etc. all need to be replaced.