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Same-Size Bucks Discriminate Against the Seeing-Impaired

United States currency discriminates against the blind, according to a federal appeals court ruling handed down today. Because the dollar amounts of same-size skrilla are not distinguishable by touch, the visually impaired suffer unreasonably.

The Treasury Department fell short of demonstrating why it would be too burdensome to design distinguishable dollars. The legal opinion stated that the cost of the redesign is not out of line with other design decisions made by the Treasury. The United States is the only country that prints paper currency with an identical size and feel, no matter the denomination. Canada's dollar, for example, has Braille on it.

So how much discriminatory currency is it going to take to right this wrong? To find out how much,


New machines for printing the blind-proof bills will cost about $228 million. But this amount just opens a Pandora's box of prices — it will cost around $3.5 billion to make vending machines compatible, not to mention wallets, ATMs . . .

To what ends should the US go to make sure the blind know whether they have George Washington or Benjamin Franklin in their wallets? Does the fact that the US is the only country that does not accommodate the blind in this manner demonstrate that the request is reasonable?


Join The Conversation
Ashenturtle Ashenturtle 9 years
My co-worker is blind and I've always thought about what he does when he's shopping alone...some jerk at the register can just rip him off!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
Cant they train thier dogs or monkeys to recognize what the money is? .........jk.
Cathy3385 Cathy3385 9 years
I agree with AKirstin and City Girl that this is a valid and reasonable request. I have personally seen people handing back the wrong change to the visually impaired and trying to keep the difference for themselves. What surprises me is that this issue hasn't been brought up earlier, I mean we have Braille on drive up ATMs... oh and I don't think the courts are making laws. They don't have the power to create laws. All the courts did was provide a ruling that the US Treasury is discriminating against the blind.
AKirstin AKirstin 9 years
Of course it's valid, anyone who thinks it's a waste of time to consider is just being inconsiderate, imo. From what I've seen, blind people fold different denominations differently, to tell them apart. But it still seems like it would be easy for jerks to rip them off. Any time we do something as a society to take care of our own people it's a good thing.
The-City-Girl The-City-Girl 9 years
Yes, it's absolutely valid. Using money is such a basic, day-to-day function, and having no way to discern between bills really stunts visually-impaired people's independence. Kimpossible, it doesn't matter that it's intentional. Of course it's not, lol! That's neither here nor there, though. The results create hardship for a set of Americans, and that's not fair or right. The Treasury had its chance to accomodate reasonably when it did the redesign, and in fact I remember that there were all sorts of petitions to do so at the time, but they basically blew it.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I agree that this is an important issue. I just think it was Congresses job to fix it, not the courts.
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
This is a totally valid issue. It's kind of ridiculous that we haven't addressed this before. I mean what are blind people supposed to do, never handle cash? I think they spend more money on more wasteful things than this.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
And I'm with you, pop, I hadn't ever considered how blind people might have difficulty with paper bills before. It makes sense though, when I think about it, and I hope they find a good solution.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
No, I didn't intend that pun at all. Wish I had, though!
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
"shortchanged" Bookish? Not sure if that pun was intentional but it made me laugh either way. My first response to this was, "are you SERIOUS?" but really I was kind of fascinated. I had never really thought of this issue before and I could see how it would be a problem. I also find it difficult to believe that we're the only country that has this problem. Is that really true?
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Liberty, (sorry so late.) I would like to see our national congress create laws that are in the best interest of all Americans. It is their job to create such laws, and it's the court's job to enforce those laws, or determine the constitutionality of those laws. As of late, the court has been very busy creating laws.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
I don't think it's unreasonable to put braille on our money, or to resize it so that people who had a hard time seeing it would have an easier time using it. If you know there's a group of people who are being shortchanged, and that can be fixed by relatively simple means, I don't see anything wrong with fixing it.
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
Great points Michelin. There are varying degrees of legislative specificity that are appropriate. A law can definitely be too vague. I suspect many law makers are eager to pass the buck to the courts, keeping their legislation vague so they don't have to take the political heat that goes with tough detailed decisions, while they can take the credit for "tackling" discrimination. My question was earnest. When people see courts making a decision that changes the status quo, they often say it should be left to the legislature. I am curious what sort of role these critics imagine for the court.
Michelann Michelann 9 years
Liberty, it sounds like you don't want lawmakers wasting their time contemplating the details and potential consequences of the laws they pass. That is exactly what they should be doing. When Congress passes broad, sweeping anti-discrimination laws, there are many scenarios to be considered. If they don't write the laws with enough specificity, they give the courts undue power to interpret. Furthermore, if the law is too vague (as most anti-discrimination laws are), it does not pass Constitutional muster under the 14th ammendment requirement for due process. Situations such as this one could certainly be predicted. It is a lawmakers duty to asses the potential consequences of a law.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I think what UnDave is touching on and I am inclined to agree with him is that congress should have been lobbied to create a (blind currency) rather than bringing a law suit saying that the Department of Treasury is practicing some sort of discrimination by not providing one.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
What are you talking about yesteryear? Your face is a road map to heaven.
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
a better solution would be to make EVERYONE blind. i know i'd get a lot more action if this were the case. just sayin'.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
why does everything have to come down to discrimination? Obviously, the redesign is flawed, but I'm sure that it was not intentional against the blind. Why is everything so dramatic anymore?
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
I'm curious UnDave what you would like to see the courts doing. Has not Congress passed anti-discrimination laws? I think a lot of time would be wasted if legislators had to assess the the details of individual situations that cannot be predicted during the law making process. But, please share what type of role you would like to see the courts taking! :)
TsuKata TsuKata 9 years
I'm really glad they raised this lawsuit. It's a completely valid complaint, and from what I've read, multiple alternative communication methods were ignored by the Treasury department. The FCC requires cellphone manufacturers to make products accessible to vision and hearing impaired users. How can our money be held to a lower standard than a cellphone?
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Oh, and I'm really looking forward to that dollar impaired issue getting through, since I could use several dollars as I move....
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Thanks Hypno. :) Instead of sending this through the courts, it should've been sent through congress. Pass a bill and make the change. Leave the judiciary alone so they can figure out what their job is and do it.
janneth janneth 9 years
This is interesting. Hard to believe we are the ONLY country!
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
I know the redesign costs sound like a lot (and they are!) but you just have to look at a post that went up a few hours ago to get some perspective. Among other things, the Senate just approved: $1 billion for heating subsidies for the poor, $350 million to fight western wildfires, etc. I think this is a matter of priorities.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Oh UnDave we gotta love ya. LOL! In light of the fact that other countries do it, it goes to show that they have a different prespective on priorities.
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