The American Council of the Blind (ACB) and two visually impaired individuals filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the currency of the United States violates the rights of the blind and visually impaired because they cannot denominate United States paper currency.
The District Court ruled that the Department of the Treasury must provide meaningful access to U.S. currency for blind and other visually impaired persons in the next currency redesign. Read the American Council for the Blind court order injunction (filed October 3, 2008). The Court also directed the BEP to file status reports every six months, describing the steps taken to implement the Order and Judgment. Status reports are available in the left column of this page.
Comprehensive StudyJuly 2009 The BEP commissioned and published a comprehensive study to (1) review and analyze the needs of the blind and visually impaired; (2) examine various methods that potentially could improve access to the currency; (3) perform a cost impact analysis of the possible accommodations on various government and industry sectors; and (4) provide a Decision Model whereby BEP could compare and contrast various accommodations. The BEP utilized the study to generate its recommendations on providing meaningful access to Federal Reserve notes. Federal Register NoticeMay 20, 2010
The Department of the Treasury and BEP issued a notice in the Federal Register to inform the public of the features BEP will propose to the Secretary of the Treasury and to solicit public comment on the proposed accommodations. The public comment period closed on August 18, 2010. Comments may still be viewed at www.regulations.gov.
June 22, 2010
As part of the public comment process, the BEP hosted two open public forums simultaneously at its Washington, DC and Fort Worth, TX facilities. Transcripts from these forums are available to view at www.regulations.gov.
May 31, 2011
Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner approved the methods that the Department of the Treasury will use to provide blind and visually impaired individuals with meaningful access to U.S. currency. The Secretary approved the following accommodations which are based on feedback from the study and feedback from the public:
- A Raised Tactile Feature: Adding a raised tactile feature to U.S. currency unique to each Federal Reserve note that it may lawfully change1, which will provide users with a means of identifying each denomination via touch. 1Currently, U.S. law prohibits any changes to the $1 Federal Reserve note.
- High Contrast Numerals: Continuing the program of adding large high contrast numerals and different colors to each denomination that it is permitted by law to alter.
- A Currency Reader Program: Implementing a supplemental currency reader distribution program for blind and visually impaired U.S. citizens and those legally residing in the U.S.
Senate Report 112-177
The Senate Committee on Appropriations issued Senate Report 112-177. This report directed BEP to provide a detailed plan, including a timeline, to develop, design, test, and print currency with accessibility features.
Meaningful Access Plan
Although the legislation accompanying Senate Report 112-177 was not enacted, given the high level of interest, and to enhance communication and openness, BEP submitted a white paper to the Treasury OIG and the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The white paper explains BEP’s progress and path forward in detail.
Currency Reader Program Details Announced July 2014
The BEP outlined its plans to launch the currency reader program at three conferences this summer: the National Federation for the Blind Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, the American Council for the Blind Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV, and the Blinded Veterans Association Annual Conference in Reno, NV.
Currency Reader Pilot Program Launched September 2, 2014
In partnership with National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) NLS patrons became eligible to pre-order a currency reader. Details can be found here.
Currency Reader Application Made Available to Public November 14, 2014
The U.S. Currency Reader application was posted to allow the general population of individuals who are blind or visually impaired to apply for a currency reader device. The national rollout of the program will begin January 2, 2015. Through December 31, 2014, patrons of the NLS can pre-order a currency reader through their regional library. Details can be found here.
National Rollout of the U.S. Currency Reader Program Begins
January 2, 2015
The BEP began processing all applications received from eligible blind and visually impaired individuals requesting a free currency reader device under the U.S. Currency Reader Program. Read the press release. Download the application.