WASHINGTON -- In a supplemental report on progress made to provide "meaningful access" to American currency for blind and sight-impaired persons, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said his department has not yet set a timetable for the next currency redesign.
"News that a date for a currency redesign has not been designated is very good for the vending industry," said Dan Mathews, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, which reported on the Treasury Department's progress on June 15.
Geithner has approved several recommendations by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Treasury agency that makes paper money, to improve access to U.S. currency for the blind or those whose sight is weakening with illness or age. They include adding a raised tactile feature, large, high-contrast numerals and different colors. BEP also suggested a supplementary program that would distribute currency readers to U.S. citizens and legal residents who are blind or sight impaired.
In its comments to the Treasury Department in 2010, NAMA argued that a tactile feature on currency, such as Braille markings, is a good remedy, but the cost of such a feature could be substantial. The vending association encouraged BEP to minimize potential costs and provide sufficient time for the vending industry to accommodate any physical currency changes. | SEE STORY
NAMA's Washington team has been working on the currency redesign case since September 2005, when it submitted an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It also filed a brief in a U.S. court of appeals in August 2007.
"Some of the original recommendations -- in particular changing the physical sizes of notes -- could have had a major impact and significant, if not devastating, cost to our industry," Mathews explained.
The NAMA executive said an embossed tactile feature, continued use of large high-contrast numbers and currency reader distribution program are requirements with which the vending industry can live. Mathews added that the proposed redesign does not apply to the $1 note.
In May 2008, a federal appeals court ruled that the United States discriminates against the blind and those with limited vision because all its paper money is the same size regardless of a bill's value. The 2-to-1 decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that the Treasury Department failed to prove that it would be too difficult to make banknotes of different sizes or add attributes that could be read by touch to distinguish monetary value. The American Council of the Blind brought the lawsuit in 2002.
(Various other groups representing the blind and visually impaired did not support the lawsuit or advocate a change in currency design.)