Get those coin belts and pouches ready, kids.

Just caught a breaking news item over at that a federal judge has ruled that American paper money is unfair to blind people. Un-freakin’ believable. Details to follow.

Addendum: Here’s the story.

By keeping all U.S. currency the same size and texture, the government has denied blind people meaningful access to money, a federal judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson said the Treasury Department has violated the law, and he ordered the government to come up with ways for the blind to tell bills apart.

He said he wouldn’t tell officials how to fix the problem, but he ordered them to begin working on it within 10 days. The American Council of the Blind has proposed several options, including printing bills of differing sizes, adding embossed dots or foil to the paper or using raised ink.

“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,” Robertson wrote. “More than 100 of the other issuers vary their bills in size according to denomination, and every other issuer includes at least some features that help the visually impaired.”

Once again, I’m disappointed in a federal judge that makes use of the laws, regulations, and practices of foreign nations in producing his ruling as opposed to applying US law. I am completely disinterested in why Mexico or Germany or Latvia produces their money in the way they do and I would be willing to bet a plain old US buck that their money was designed the way it is for artistic or economic purposes, not to follow their own version of the ADA.

I’d suggest to the judge that there are all manner of things other countries are doing out there that he would not find “reasonable” regardless of how many of them are engaging in the practices.

His argument that the printing of money of all the same size and color (why would color be of issue to blind people?) represents a violation of the Rehabilitation Act warrants examination. That’s a US law and would be a proper basis for such a ruling. But is it really discriminating against people to provide them the same access to the same money as everyone else?

There’s an argument that it is. For example, it’s considered discriminatory for a government building to not have ramps and stairs elevators (ed.: whoops) to accommodate people in wheelchairs. To say that the building’s stairs are provided equally to all citizens is insufficient. So, in that light I can see making this ruling as the judge did. I understand the government’s position. Tooling up to print different sized bills or bills with raised features will be expensive and will remain expensive as operations continue. I am not against putting some features in place to allow these changes but I’m not willing to consent that at any cost. It has to be reasonable, so I’d like to hear more about those costs and the options we have in what to do.



  1. It seems like there would be a number of practical effects of using money of different sizes (we already use different colors), both good and bad. The cost might be higher, but I can’t imagine that the cost difference would be that significant. We probably blew more money on the 50-quarter campaign than we would on making 20s a little shorter than 50s.

    All I’m saying is that there’s some value in looking at how and why other nations do what they do, and figuring out the good and bad results of their policies. I don’t think you should be “completely disinterested.”

  2. […] In my post yesterday about the ruling that the printing of money the way we’ve been doing it is discriminatory, I made some statements that apparently need clarification. I’ve also had a few more thoughts on the matter that I feel like expounding upon, so… here goes. […]

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