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Treasury appeals blind note hearing

The Bush administration asked a federal court Dec. 12 to overturn a lower-court ruling requiring that the government redesign U.S. paper money to accommodate the vision-impaired.

A judge for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled Nov. 28 that the Treasury Department  violates the law by keeping paper money the same size and feel, and ordered that a way be found to come up with a way for the blind to tell bills apart.

The Bush administration appealed the  ruling, arguing that making changes to paper money would be prohibitively expensive and interfere with counterfeiting measures.

It said the blind have access to portable currency readers, and credit and debit cards, to help them with their financial transactions.

It might surprise some that the National Federation of the Blind supports the appeal.

?The ruling of Judge James Robertson saying that U.S. currency discriminates against the blind was dangerous and wrong,? said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the organization. ?The blind are not barred from using U.S. paper money because of the way it is designed. This ruling misinterpreted the meaning of discrimination. It also implied that the blind are not capable of looking out for our own best interests and that the whole world must be modified for our protection.?

Maurer said that the blind ?need jobs and real opportunities to earn money, not feel-good gimmicks that misinform the public about our capabilities.?

He said blind people traditionally identify paper currency by folding bills of different denominations in different ways or using machines specially designed to read paper money for the blind.

?Blind people transact business with paper money every day,? Maurer said. ?The ruling argues that the blind cannot handle currency or documents in the workplace, and that virtually everything must be modified for the use of the blind. An employer who believes that every piece of printed material in the workplace must be specially designed so that the blind can read it will have a strong incentive not to hire a blind person. That is why the National Federation of the Blind will do everything in its power to support the Treasury in seeing that this ruling is overturned.?

Some point to the euro used  by 12 members of the European Union as an example to aspire to. Euro notes are different sizes ? the higher the denomination, the longer the note.

But, the accommodations made for the blind were designed from the get-go, before the first euro notes appeared. There was no changeover and the long planning process allowed vendors plenty of time to modify vending machines, cash register money trays and other items affected by the new notes.

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