Release Date: 
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

National Federation of the Blind Applauds Treasury Appeal

United States Currency Does Not Discriminate Against Blind People

Baltimore, Maryland (December 12, 2006): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind persons, today announced its full support of the decision of the United States Department of the Treasury to appeal a court order mandating a redesign of U.S. paper money. The Federation plans to support the Treasury in the appeal process.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The ruling of Judge James Robertson saying that U.S. currency discriminates against the blind was dangerous and wrong. 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. If it is allowed to stand unchallenged, this ruling will do real harm to the blind by making our goal of full and equal participation in society virtually impossible to achieve. 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.”

The appeal from the Treasury came in response to a November 28 ruling by Federal District Court Judge James Robertson saying that the design of U.S. paper money discriminates against the blind because all bills are the same size and shape. Judge Robertson ordered the Treasury to come up with design changes that would make currency identifiable to the blind by touch. The day after the ruling, the National Federation of the Blind issued a strong statement that paper money is not a form of discrimination against the blind. In that statement, Dr. Maurer said: “Blind people transact business with paper money every day. This ruling puts a roadblock in the way of solving the real problem, which is the seventy percent unemployment rate among working-age blind Americans that severely limits our access to cash. The ruling will do nothing to alleviate that situation; in fact, it seriously endangers the ability of the blind to get jobs and participate fully in society. It 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.”

Blind people traditionally identify paper currency by folding bills of different denominations in different ways. Some blind people use devices that can speak the denomination of a bill aloud, and the Treasury is doing research to make such technology more readily available. In a 2002 resolution passed by the national convention of the NFB in response to the filing of the lawsuit against the Treasury, the organization suggested that providing money identification technology to the blind was probably a better solution to the problem than a wholesale redesign of the currency. But most blind people use paper money without the need to carry a money identifier. “In reality, blind people do not routinely find that we have been short-changed,” Maurer said. “If a question arises as to a particular transaction, we are perfectly capable of resolving the matter ourselves.”