In May 2002, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and two visually impaired individuals filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the currency of the United States violates the rights of the blind and visually impaired because they could not denominate United States paper currency. In October 2008, the District Court ruled that the Department of the Treasury must provide meaningful access to U.S. currency for blind and other visually impaired persons in the next currency redesign. Read the American Council for the Blind court order injunction (filed October 3, 2008).
Meaningful Access Recommendations Approved by the Secretary
On May 31, 2011, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner approved the methods that the Department of the Treasury will use to provide blind and visually impaired individuals with meaningful access to U.S. currency. The Secretary approved that BEP will implement the following accommodations:
Tactile Feature: Adding a raised tactile feature to U.S. currency unique to each U.S. Federal Reserve note that it may lawfully change1, which will provide users with a means of identifying each denomination via touch. BEP will consult with currency stakeholders at all stages of the process.
High Contrast Numerals: Continuing the program of adding large high contrast numerals and different colors to each denomination that it is permitted by law to alter. BEP will consult with currency stakeholders at all stages of the process.
Currency Reader Program: Implementing a supplemental currency reader distribution program for blind and visually impaired U.S. citizens and those legally residing in the U.S.
The new note features will be introduced together in the next currency redesign following the redesigned $100 note. BEP intends to implement the currency reader program as soon as possible to provide some immediate relief to the blind and visually impaired population, while addressing the transition that will occur during the co-circulation of notes with and without tactile and high contrast features.
1Currently, U.S. law prohibits any changes to the $1 Federal Reserve note.
As more information is available regarding progress in creating meaningful access to U.S. currency, it will be posted on this website.
Currency Reader Program Information
BEP has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain feedback from potential contract support providers about capabilities and experience they could offer to support the BEP’s currency reader program, whereby the BEP would provide currency readers, free of charge, to eligible blind and visually impaired individuals. The RFI, which asks respondents to submit a white paper, (reference No. BEP-RFI-12-ACCESSSUPPORT) closed on October 3, 2012, at 2 PM EST.
An earlier RFI (reference No. 120201) to obtain information from currency reader device manufacturers and resellers was issued for 30 days and closed on July 31, 2012, at 2 PM EST.
Currency Identification Mobile Applications
Advances in technology have enabled a quick and convenient means for blind and visually impaired individuals to determine a note’s denomination by using their personal mobile devices.
Recently BEP issued a press release about a new currency reader application (app) developed in collaboration with the Department of Education. The IDEAL Currency Identifier is a free downloadable app that operates on the Android platform. It follows BEP’s development and 2010 launch of the free EyeNote® app which operates on the Apple iOS.
The launch of these apps is not in lieu-of the other accommodations the Government is developing to assist blind and visually impaired individuals in denominating U.S. currency. These apps simply provide a quicker option for the public, who are increasingly using mobile devices, while the Government develops a currency reader program and the raised tactile and large, high-contrast numeral features to be included in the next U.S. currency note designs.
BEP Participation at Stakeholder Organization Meetings and Conventions
In 2013, BEP representatives will attend:
- California State University Technology and Disability Conference (CSUN), San Diego, CA (February 2013)
National Federation for the Blind (NFB), Orlando, FL (July 2013)
American Council for the Blind (ACB), Columbus, OH (July 2013)
Please visit the respective organization’s website for agenda and scheduling information.