Release Date: 
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
John G. Paré Jr.
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2371
(410) 913-3912 (Cell)

National Federation of the Blind Comments on Federal Court Ruling on U.S. Currency

Views Effort as Dangerously Misguided

Baltimore, Maryland (November 29, 2006): The National Federation of the Blind, the largest organization of blind persons in America and known as the voice of the nation’s blind, criticized as dangerously misguided a federal court ruling saying that the design of U.S. currency discriminates against the blind.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The blind need jobs and real opportunities to earn money, not feel-good gimmicks that misinform the public about our capabilities. 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.”

Maurer went on to enumerate the real needs for access to information by the blind and made a distinction between those needs and the issue of identifying currency. “Access to information of all kinds, such as that contained on Internet Web sites and in the press, is certainly critical to the ability of the blind to become productive members of society. Blind students need educational materials in Braille and other alternative formats so that they can prepare for employment and ultimately earn an income for themselves and their families. Given the urgent need for access to the kind of information that is required for success in America’s information economy, the matter of identifying the denominations of paper bills is of relatively little concern.”

Blind people traditionally identify paper currency by folding bills of different denominations in different ways. “In reality, blind people do not routinely find that we have been short-changed,” Maurer commented. Machines are readily available to identify paper money for blind people who run businesses or handle large amounts of cash. “Essentially, the United States Treasury has been ordered by the courts to come up with a solution for a nonexistent problem,” Maurer said.

The National Federation of the Blind believes that with training and opportunity, blind people can compete in the world with only minor modifications. The American Council of the Blind, which brought the lawsuit against the United States Treasury, promotes the view that the blind are unable to compete unless the world is modified dramatically and specifically for blind people, and that the blind must be made objects of care and pity rather than equal participants in society.

To schedule a television or radio interview with the National Federation of the Blind, please contact John Paré at (410) 913-3912.