Federal Reserve notes are the same size and weight regardless of denomination. Because there is no tactile difference between a $5 and $20 bill, for example, blind and visually impaired individuals may experience difficulties denominating Federal Reserve notes.
In May 2011, then Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner approved methods that the Department of the Treasury will use to provide blind and visually impaired individuals with meaningful access to U.S. currency. The approved methods include:
- A Raised, Tactile Feature: Adding a raised tactile feature to U.S. currency unique to each U.S. Federal Reserve note that it may lawfully change1, which will provide users with a means of identifying each denomination via touch. BEP will consult with currency stakeholders at all stages of the process. 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. BEP will consult with currency stakeholders at all stages of the process.
- 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.
The new note features will be introduced together in the next currency redesign. General background information related to the BEP’s initiatives for meaningful access to U.S. currency is available in the Program Background section of this website.
The U.S. Currency Reader Program will provide some immediate relief to the blind and visually impaired population, while addressing the transition that will occur during the co-circulation of notes with and without tactile and high contrast features. Further details about the program are available in the U.S. Currency Reader Program section of this website.
Advancements in technology have also enabled a quick and convenient means for blind and visually impaired individuals to determine a note’s denomination through the use of downloadable applications (apps) on their personal mobile devices. Mobile apps provide an additional option for the public, who are increasingly using mobile devices. Additional information about currency denominating apps is available in the Mobile Apps section of this website.