In May 2002, 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 could not denominate United States paper currency. In October 2008, 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).
BEP Submits Paper on Meaningful Access Plan
In June 2012, 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. Although the legislation accompanying the Senate Report was not enacted, given the high level of interest, and to enhance communication and openness, the BEP is submitting this white paper to the Treasury OIG and the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The paper may be viewed here.
Meaningful Access Recommendations Approved by the Secretary
On 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 that BEP will implement the following accommodations:
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.
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.
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 following the redesigned $100 note. BEP intends to implement the currency reader program as soon as possible to 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.
1Currently, U.S. law prohibits any changes to the $1 Federal Reserve note.
As more information is available regarding progress in creating meaningful access to U.S. currency, it will be posted on this website.
Currency Reader Program Information
The BEP has issued a Request for Proposal (BEP-RFP-14-0256) to purchase currency readers for the blind and visually impaired as one of the accommodations to provide meaningful access to Federal Reserve notes. The solicitation will remain open until October 10, 2013.
Phone: (202) 874-1981
GAO Issues Opinion on Currency Reader Program
In January 2013, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) requested an opinion from United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) as to whether the BEP could give, rather than loan as government property, a currency reader to eligible blind and visually impaired individuals as part of its meaningful access program.
On June 7, 2013 the GAO issued its opinion in support of the BEP’s plan to use appropriated funds to purchase and give currency readers to blind and visually impaired individuals as part of its compliance with the federal district court order to provide such individuals with meaningful access to U.S. currency. GAO’s opinion can be viewed at http://www.gao.gov/products/D04870#mt=e-report
Currency Identification Mobile Applications
Advances in technology have enabled a quick and convenient means for blind and visually impaired individuals to determine a note’s denomination by using their personal mobile devices.
Recently BEP issued a press release about a new currency reader application (app) developed in collaboration with the Department of Education. The IDEAL Currency Identifier is a free downloadable app that operates on the Android platform. It follows BEP’s development and 2010 launch of the free EyeNote® app which operates on the Apple iOS.
The launch of these apps is not in lieu-of the other accommodations the Government is developing to assist blind and visually impaired individuals in denominating U.S. currency. These apps simply provide a quicker option for the public, who are increasingly using mobile devices, while the Government develops a currency reader program and the raised tactile and large, high-contrast numeral features to be included in the next U.S. currency note designs.
BEP Participation at Stakeholder Organization Meetings and Conventions
In 2013, BEP representatives attended:
National Federation for the Blind (NFB), Orlando, FL (July 2-5, 2013)
American Council for the Blind (ACB), Columbus, OH (July 6-12, 2013)
Please visit the respective organization’s website for agenda and scheduling information.
NCD Forum Held at BEP
BEP hosted a National Council on Disability (NCD) Introduction of Tactile Currency in America Forum where representatives from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (FRB) and the United States Secret Service (USSS) discussed the Government’s path forward to provide meaningful access to Federal Reserve notes Over eighty guests representing the blind and visually impaired community attended the event held on September 26, 2013 in Washington, DC.