I attended a forum hosted by the National Council on Disability in collaboration with Federal partners to discuss developments to ensure accessible currency in America today by phone. Representatives from the Secret Service, the Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing described the problems faced and the projects underway to make paper money accessible to those of us who are blind, visually-impaired or have learning disabilities. There is 1.15 trillion in bills in circulation, much of it abroad. Changes to currency must be durable, not easily counterfeited and cost factors must be considered.
In 2014 the National Library Service will distribute bill readers to its patrons. 13,000 I-bill apps have been downloaded by iPhone users. Next year a newly designed $100 bill will be released featuring a large print numeral. Bills containing a tactile feature will be rolled out gradually starting in 2020. The average bill lasts about three years, so the transition will entail ATMs and other devices needing to be able to handle both old and new bills. By law the $1 bill cannot be redesigned, so it will not have a tactile marking. $1 coins will continue to circulate, but it is not expected that they’ll replace the bills.
October 15 is Blind Americans Equality Day and it’s great that access to currency is moving forward even if it’s slower than we’d like. I’ll still be relying on honest people to tell me if it’s a $1 or a $5. For sixty-four years that’s worked quite well for me. May it continue!