That’s a $1? I Thought It Was a $100!

AprpmMon, 16 Apr 2007 13:28:46 +00002007-04-16T13:28:46+00:0001 11, 2007 by

One day, one of my roommates gave me what she said were some hundred-dollar bills to pay me back for money she had borrowed from me. I didn’t entirely trust her not to take advantage of me, so I later asked a coworker whom I thought I could trust if the bills were in fact hundreds, and he said that they were, so I went home and put them into my bureau until I could get to the bank to deposit them.

A few days later, I went to buy groceries with a bill that I thought was one of the hundreds, but the cashier told me that it was a one.

I still have no idea what happened. Maybe my coworker took the hundred and gave me back a one (I think this is unlikely, but technically I can’t rule it out). Maybe my roommate took the hundred out of my bureau and put a one in its place. Maybe the cashier was lying to me and ripping me off. I just don’t know and probably won’t ever know, but there would have been a lot fewer variables if I could tell a one from a one hundred myself.


President of Lighthouse International Supports Tactile Currency

ApramFri, 06 Apr 2007 11:31:12 +00002007-04-06T11:31:12+00:0011 11, 2007 by

From a CBS News article dated December 12, 2006:

“Tara Cortes, president of Lighthouse International, an advocacy group for the blind, said the government’s decision to fight making changes in the currency was ‘misguided and harmful to millions.’  

“She said there are 1.3 million people in the United States who are legally blind and there will be millions more in coming years as the baby boom generation ages and more people fall victim to macular degeneration and other diseases that can affect vision such as diabetes.”  

The American Foundation for the Blind Supports Tactile Currency

ApramFri, 06 Apr 2007 11:13:41 +00002007-04-06T11:13:41+00:0011 11, 2007 by

On November 29, 2006, the American Foundation for the Blind applauded the accessible currency lawsuit, saying:

“Yesterday a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Treasury Department is violating the law by not designing and issuing paper money that is accessible to people with vision loss. Though this is just the first step in what is expected to be a long legal battle, it is an important ruling for the 10 million blind and visually impaired people living in the United States.

“We applaud the American Council of the Blind for championing this issue to ensure that all people can easily identify and use money without assistance.”

The American Foundation for the Blind is currently sponsoring a web survey about currency use by visually impaired people.

My Experiences As a Blind Person Using Currency Abroad

AprpmWed, 04 Apr 2007 20:42:31 +00002007-04-04T20:42:31+00:0008 11, 2007 by

I spent six months studying in Scotland when I was in college, and during that time I also visited England, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland and Sweden. In all of those countries the denominations of paper money varied by size, and in Scotland and England, where I spent the most time, I got to know the currency so well that I could identify each bill by touch. I still folded different types of bills differently in my wallet to make it easier to keep track of them, but for the first time in my life, I could tell for myself what the bills were before folding them so I didn’t have to ask a sighted person for help.

It was so liberating not to have to ask cashiers which bills were which when they gave me change. Now that I’m back in the U.S. and I do have to ask again, it bothers me more than it ever did before.  Now I know firsthand that it doesn’t have to be this way. That is why I am doing everything I can to work for the modernization of our currency in the U.S., so it can be as easy to use for all people, both blind and sighted, as the currency I used in Europe.

He Could Have Kept My $100

MaramFri, 30 Mar 2007 11:56:42 +00002007-03-30T11:56:42+00:0011 11, 2007 by

Here’s something that happened to me a few years ago:

One night, I came home from work late and I decided to order a pizza. After a long day at the office I did not feel like cooking. After placing my order, I took out a $20 bill and sat down to watch television while I waited for the pizza. Thirty minutes later, my pizza arrived. I went to the door and handed the delivery man my $20 and asked him for $5 change. He handed me a bill and told me it was a $5.

Over an hour later, as I was watching a basketball game, I heard another knock on my door. I was surprised to hear someone knocking because it was almost 10 p.m., so when I got to the door I asked who it was. I was shocked when the voice on the other side replied that he was the pizza delivery man. As I was opening the door I began to wonder, “Did I not pay him enough? Was my $20 bill really a $5?”

My feelings of embarrassment quickly turned to shock as the man explained to me that I had accidentally given him a $100 bill instead of a $20. He said he did not immediately notice that it was a $100 because the light outside my door was burned out. I could not believe that he had returned the money to me. I let him keep fifty dollars as a tip because, the way I looked at it, I was still ahead thirty dollars and I wanted to reward his honesty.

As I went to sleep that night, I could not stop thinking about how I had almost lost all that money because of the inaccessible currency used here in America. I was also struck by the fact that the sighted delivery man could not tell the money apart either, because of the darkness outside. I knew that there had to be a better way, a design for American paper money that would protect both the delivery man and me from going through that kind of situation again.

Jonathan Simeone is an attorney who happens to be blind. He currently works for the American Bar Association.

Tactile Currency Helps Prevent Counterfeiting

MaramFri, 30 Mar 2007 10:31:53 +00002007-03-30T10:31:53+00:0010 11, 2007 by

Judge James Robertson’s opinion in the tactile currency case states: “The government offers no reason to think that the addition of a tactile feature would render U.S. currency more vulnerable to counterfeiting, and indeed the use of foil and raised print on the euro is considered a security feature, as is the micro perforated number on a Swiss banknote.”

On December 23, 2006, the Berks County (Pennsylvania) Reading Eagle published an editorial in support of this decision, saying that tactile features could only help us fight the battle against counterfeiting:

“The government’s main argument seemed to be one of security. These changes would make U.S. currency easier to counterfeit, government attorneys argued. That seems ridiculous on its face, and Robertson dismissed that during the hearing as utterly unpersuasive. Indeed common sense indicates that changing size or adding special features in fact could make U.S. currency harder to copy.”

On February 27, 2007, NPR presented an interview with a counterfeiting prevention expert who believes that textural and other cues musst be added to our paper currency to prevent counterfeiting in the coming years:

“[Robert] Schafrik, who led this year’s National Research Council study on currency, said that counterfeiting is likely to explode if the U.S. doesn’t make some radical changes to our paper bills.

“Within five to 10 years, he says, ‘the software will be so easy to use that anyone will be able to use it, even the casual counterfeiter.’

“Forget global crime syndicates or foreign pariah states. In a few years, with even the cheapest printer, you’ll be able to counterfeit money. The pizza delivery comes, you’re short $10. No problem. Scan the $10 bill you do have into a computer, hit print, and you’ve got a perfect fidelity bill. In short, the United States will not be able to stop counterfeiting by making paper currency more and more intricate. Printers will reproduce any image.

“‘The future is not going to be in more color, or more finely printed images,’ says Alan Goldstein, a molecular engineering professor at Alfred University. ‘The future is going to be in the materials from which the bill, itself, is made.'”

Even if the government decided simply to vary the size of the different denominations (with lowest-value bills being smallest, of course), this would at least prevent criminals from bleaching the ink off low-value bills and using them to counterfeit higher-value bills (this scam is one of the reasons why the Bureau of Egraving and Printing is redesigning the $5 right now).

Although most media are portraying the accessible currency lawsuit merely as a “blind” issue, in fact accessible paper money would benefit everyone by making our currency more secure–and that’s an important part of our economic and national security.

USA Today Supports Accessible Paper Currency

MaramFri, 30 Mar 2007 10:05:46 +00002007-03-30T10:05:46+00:0010 11, 2007 by

This USA Today editorial in favor of accessible paper currency was published on December 14, 2006:

“Compared with the $420 million the Bureau of Engraving and Printing spends each year, changing the currency amounts to small change, and the cost isn’t a good enough reason to thwart action that could assist 1.3 million blind Americans.

“Similar cost objections were once raised to other accommodations to assist the disabled, such as handicapped parking spots and bathrooms, curb cuts and ramps. Those are now required by law in public places, widely accepted, and beneficial to those in wheelchairs and people with baby strollers alike.”

…and let’s not forget about Closed Captioning of TV programs, which was originally considered an expensive “burden” placed on the hearing community solely for the benefit of Deaf and hearing-impaired people: now hearing people are using Closed Captioning everywhere, from health clubs to airports to sports bars! “Disability” accommodations have a funny way of benefiting non-disabled people more than they ever anticipate…

Getting the Word Out in Oregon

MaramSun, 25 Mar 2007 04:28:32 +00002007-03-25T04:28:32+00:0004 11, 2007 by

[rockyou id=61400221&w=500&h=376]

The slideshow above shows Shirley and Barb walking around downtown Portland, Oregon, handing out OUR MONEY TOO flyers to passersby. As they rode the Max train downtown, Shirley handed out a flyer to an older gentleman who said that blind people should just use debit cards instead of cash. Shirley didn’t have a chance to say a word before a young man sitting a few seats away started telling the older gentlemen that this idea is wrong because everyone should be treated equally! The young man’s name is Jeff, and we hope there are more people like him–there is always hope in this world when people care about others the way he does. Thank you, Jeff!

Why Sighted People Support Accessible Paper Currency

MarpmThu, 22 Mar 2007 16:06:04 +00002007-03-22T16:06:04+00:0004 11, 2007 by

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.

Tactile Currency Benefits Everyone

MaramThu, 15 Mar 2007 00:18:23 +00002007-03-15T00:18:23+00:0012 11, 2007 by

Do you ever count the money you receive from customers or cashiers, just to make sure you’ve been given the correct payment or the correct change? Most people consider this a matter of common sense, but blind people in the United States don’t have access to this basic level of personal security because the U.S. (unlike nearly every other country on earth) issues paper money that is the same size and texture for all denominations. As a result, although blind people can fold paper money in certain ways or use other clever workarounds to keep track of the bills in our wallets or cash registers, we still have to rely at some point on sighted people or currency-reading machines to identify any paper money we receive. We in Our Money Too believe that making U.S. banknotes distinguishable by touch would be an important step forward for blind people—and the rest of the nation too.

For blind people, being unable to identify paper money without the help of a sighted person or a currency-reading machine certainly adds unnecessary complication to our personal lives, but even worse, it limits our access to employment. So many jobs involve handling cash—especially the entry-level retail jobs many young people seek out as they enter the workforce for the first time—and businesses are reluctant to hire anyone who needs to run every single bill through a special machine in order to identify it. As a result, many young visually impaired people graduate school without paid work experience on their resumés, which certainly does not help them as they enter the job market.

Sighted people from other countries often complain that U.S. paper money is confusing because all the denominations look basically the same at first glance. Most Americans—including many blind Americans—are so accustomed to the inefficient design of our paper currency that we rarely ever think about it, but our neighbors in practically every other country on earth have demonstrated that paper money with tactile features is more convenient for everyone, whether blind or sighted.

In 1995 the National Academy of Sciences published an extensive report on accessibility features for paper currency, but when the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (B.E.P.) redesigned the $20 bill for the first time in 1996, they ignored nearly all the recommendations of the report. In 1997, with the support of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the National Federation of the Blind, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution encouraging the B.E.P. to “incorporate cost-effective, tactile features” into its next scheduled redesign process, noting that “electronic means of bill identification will always be more fallible than purely tactile means” (H.R. 122, 105th Congress).

The Treasury and the B.E.P. continued to ignore these calls for change, so in 2002, the American Council of the Blind took them to court. On November 28, 2006, Federal District Judge James Robertson ruled in favor of the ACB, stating that the government’s failure to design U.S. currency in a way that allows blind and visually impaired people to distinguish the bills independently is a violation of §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in federal government programs. An html version of the ruling has been produced and made available by Our Money Too. The Treasury Department is currently appealing the decision.

Treasury officials protest that changing U.S. paper currency would cost too much, but in the meantime, they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on multiple redesigns of nearly all the denominations of paper money in circulation—and they plan to keep doing it every few years from now on. As the Treasury continues to develop new bill designs with new anti-counterfeiting features, why not include some distinctive tactile features for the different denominations? If tactile features were phased in gradually, as part of the redesigns already scheduled for each denomination, the additional cost would be far less than some people fear.

The Treasury also argues that making paper currency accessible would interfere with anti-counterfeiting efforts, but this seems particularly disingenuous, given that so many other countries consider the tactile features on their banknotes to be an important part of their anti-counterfeiting designs. Tactile features made of specialized materials are too difficult for counterfeiters to replicate, and many kinds of tactile features also prevent accurate photocopying of banknotes by creating blurry spots in the scan. Even simply varying the sizes of the different denominations would prevent criminals from bleaching the ink off low-value bills and overprinting them to resemble higher-value bills (this particular scam is one of the reasons why the B.E.P. is redesigning the $5 bill right now).

The B.E.P. plans to redesign U.S. banknotes every few years anyway, so why not take advantage of these opportunities to add tactile features that would make the currency harder to counterfeit and easier for everyone to use? England already did it, Canada did it, Europe did it—even Iraq did it, so why can’t we? Adding tactile features to our paper money is a worthwhile investment in America’s national security and productivity. Continuing to fight it is a waste.