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Judge orders U.S. paper money change

Justice proved sympathetic to the blind and visually impaired per a recent U.S. District Court ruling.
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Justice proved sympathetic to the blind and visually impaired per a recent U.S. District Court ruling.

Judge James Robertson ordered the U.S. government to start work on devising a way for blind people to discern differences between bank note denominations.

Robertson determined that current U.S. notes, which all generally look and feel the same, constitute discrimination against blind people. He considered this a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits disability-related discrimination in government programs.

Options such as adding embossed dots to notes, punching holes in them, making different denominations different sizes and adding raised ink or foil have been suggested.

Robertson did not buy the government?s argument that making such changes would compromise anti-counterfeiting efforts.

The government?s cost estimates prepared for the court ranged from $75 million for equipment plus $9 million ongoing annual expenses to punch holes in bills, up to $178 million plus $50 million in annual expenses to print notes of varying dimensions.

The judge did not stipulate any particular method of correction in his Nov. 26 ruling, nor did he set a timeline for progress, but he ordered that work begin to remedy the problem.

The U.S. Treasury and its Bureau of Engraving and Printing were offering no comment on the matter as of press time.

The government has 60 days after the ruling to file an appeal.

Reports on the ruling noted that changes to bank notes, especially $1 bills, would have an effect on the vending machine industry, which has been working with the Treasury on recent coin and bank note redesigns.