WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department is resisting attempts by the American Council for the Blind to persuade the Court of Appeals to set specific dates for U.S. currency redesign.
The ACB had filed suit in 2002, arguing that the United States "discriminates" against sight-impaired people because the denominations of U.S. banknotes cannot be determined by senses other than sight. The suit was opposed by other leading advocacy organizations, notably the National Federation for the Blind, which argued that there are more pressing needs to be met.
In 2006, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia found for the plaintiffs. The Treasury Department appealed, contending that the cost of redesigning U.S. currency would be prohibitive. In 2008, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that appeal.
The National Automatic Merchandising Association reports that the ACB has requested that the court direct Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to furnish specific dates by which the currency will be redesigned. In a supplemental report (revealed in June) on progress made to provide "meaningful access" to American currency for blind and sight-impaired persons, Geithner said his department had not yet set a timetable for the next currency redesign. | SEE STORY
It also asked the secretary to submit a detailed plan enumerating specific steps for implementing three accommodations selected by the secretary to provide meaningful access to U.S. currency by the blind and visually impaired. These are adding a raised "tactile feature," continuing to add large, high-contrast numerals and different colors, and putting into effect a supplemental currency reader distribution program for blind and other visually impaired U.S. citizens and legal residents.
Treasury has opposed the ACB's request, NAMA explained, arguing that the timing to provide meaningful access should remain tied to the next redesign of the currency for counterfeit deterrence. In a declaration filed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, director Larry Felix set forth the steps already taken to comply with the 2008 court order.
Felix argued that the BEP has made significant progress toward implementing the Treasury secretary's decision, including incorporating large, high-contrast and different colors on the currency. This feature has already been incorporated into currency redesign, beginning in 2003.
The BEP is also working on the development of the currency reader program and working on methods of distributing these readers to the blind and visually impaired, he continued. And the BEP has taken extensive steps to access the viability of various tactile features including looking into the features incorporated into foreign currency. In the interim, the BEP unveiled a mobile device application to increase accessibility to Federal Reserve notes. The matter will now be decided by the Court of Appeals.