Judge Rules U.S. Currency Discriminates Against Blind

Does U.S. currency discriminate against people who are blind? Yes, Federal District Court judge James Robertson ruled on Tuesday, November 28, stating that U.S. paper currency is printed on bills the same size that cannot be distinguished by touch.

The judge ordered the Treasury Department to start discussing possible remedies within thirty days. Remedies could include printing different denominations on different sizes of paper and raised numerals and perforated dots on the bills.

Judge Robertson stated, “Of the more than 180 countries that issue paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations.”

Euro notes come in bigger sizes for larger denominations and have raised numerals and foil patches in different shapes. Japanese notes have rough patches to help identify them by touch. Swiss francs have intaglio printing and perforated numerals. Other countries use sequences of perforated dots.

The Treasury Department has not yet commented on whether it will appeal the order.

The U.S. government redesigned bills in 1996 by adding two features: one larger number at a slightly different height from the rest of the bill, and an infrared symbol to encourage development of handheld currency readers for people who are blind.

The judge said those changes were mainly intended to discourage counterfeiting and fall far short of what is needed to make it possible for people who are blind to handle currency accurately and independently.