Why Sighted People Support Accessible Paper Currency

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Some people mistakenly believe that adding tactile features to United States paper currency would only benefit blind people. While it is true that tactile features would make U.S. banknotes more accessible to blind people, and this issue has recently been brought to the public’s attention because of a lawsuit filed by the American Council of the Blind, we must remember that this change would actually benefit everyone, including sighted people.

As other countries like Switzerland and Canada have demonstrated, tactile features make paper currency more difficult to counterfeit and therefore more secure for everyone. At this time in our history—when terrorists are looking to exploit America’s vulnerabilities—many sighted people support adding tactile features to our paper money simply because it is a commonsense measure that would help protect our currency from fraud.

People in nearly every other country on earth have also shown us that tactile features make paper currency easier for everyone to use, whether blind or sighted. Imagine a world where you could reach casually into your wallet and pick out the bills you need simply by touch? Or imagine being able to count your money in the dark–wouldn’t it be easier if you could identify the bills without actually having to look at them? Even when people ARE looking at their money, tactile features would serve as extra reinforcing cues to help everyone handle cash more quickly and easily. For example, Wikipedia notes that if higher-denomination bills were larger than lower-denominations, this would “nearly eliminate the risk that, for example, someone might fail to notice a high-value note among low-value ones, a common problem in the United States.”

Some sighted supporters of tactile currency are motivated less by their own self-interest than by their belief in the American ideal of equality. Even if accessible paper currency WERE only a “blind” issue, wouldn’t it still be important? In a society like ours, shouldn’t all Americans—regardless of visual acuity—have complete access to something as fundamental as our currency? Why should visually impaired people be prevented from contriubuting as much as possible to our nation’s economy?

Sighted people are working along with blind people in OurMoneyToo and other groups because they realize that paper currency with tactile features is harder to counterfeit and easier to use for EVERYONE, whether blind or sighted.

For more information about how you can support accessible paper currency, please visit our website and feel free to contact us. We look forward to working with you.

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One Response to “Why Sighted People Support Accessible Paper Currency”

  1. Alison Roberts Says:

    One morning last fall I missed the bus and decided to take a taxicab to work. I woke up my boyfriend and asked him to lend me $40, and he gave me two bills that we both thought were $20’s. My boyfriend and I are both sighted, but maybe because I was in a hurry and he was sleepy, neither of us realized that the bills he gave me were actually a $20 and one of those “new” $10’s that look similar–until I was sitting in the taxi in front of my office downtown, with a $32 fare on the meter and what turned out to be only $30 in my pocket. The driver had to take me around the block (which added to the fare I owed) to an ATM at a convenience store (where I had to pay a fee)–all of which added about $10 extra to what I had to pay to get to work that morning.

    There’s no reason why the government has to make all the bills look and feel so similar, especially since they’re already changing the currency every few years anyway. “Accessible” paper currency will end up helping everyone, not just blind people!

    When you talk to most people from Europe or Australia or anywhere else where they already have “accessible” paper money, they don’t usually say, “Oh, this is better for blind people” (even though it is)–they say, “Why do Americans make all the bills look and feel so similar? It’s such a pain.” They even warn people about our peculiar money in their travel guides!

    Adding tactile features to U.S. paper money would help everyone (blind AND sighted)–and it helps prevent counterfeiting too–so why is the government wasting so much time and money fighting against this obviously good idea? Let’s just solve the problem in the next redesign and move on…

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