Government appeals order to redesign currency for blind

Section:

Too many people see it everywhere already!

* * *

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061212/ap_on_go_pr_wh/blind_money

The Bush administration on Tuesday asked an appeals court to overturn a ruling that could require a redesign of the nation's currency to help the blind.

Justice Department lawyers filed the appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on behalf of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

The appeal seeks to overturn a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who ordered Treasury to come up with ways for the blind to recognize the different denominations of paper currency.

Robertson had ruled in a lawsuit brought by the American Council of the Blind. The council proposed several options for changes, including printing different size bills or changing the texture by adding embossed dots or foil.

Jeffrey Lovitky, an attorney for the council, said he planned to petition the appeals court to reject the appeal until Robertson makes a decision on what remedies the government should pursue. A hearing to hear the government's recommendations is scheduled for next month.

Christopher Gray, president of the council, said that while his group has been lobbying for changes to help the blind since 1995, the government has yet to conduct any feasibility studies of what those changes might cost. He said that during that time, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has made several design changes to thwart counterfeiters.

"We would be happy to wait until the next change in the bills and build accessibility in at that time," Gray said. "Surely, if you did it that way, the costs can't be anything like what is being claimed by Treasury."

In his ruling, Robertson said that of 180 countries issuing paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations.

He said the current practice violates the Rehabilitation Act, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in government programs.

In the government's appeal, Justice Department lawyers argued that visually impaired people are not denied "meaningful access" to money by the way the nation's currency is designed.

They noted the existence of portable reading devices that the blind can use to determine the denomination of paper money. The government said the blind can also use credit cards instead of currency.

The government also argued that Robertson was wrong in ruling that making changes to help the blind would not be unduly burdensome.

Tara Cortes, president of Lighthouse International, another advocacy group for the blind, said the government's decision to fight making changes in the currency was "misguided and harmful to millions."

She said there are 1.3 million people in the United States who are legally blind and there will be millions more in coming years as the baby boom generation ages and more people fall victim to macular degeneration and other diseases that can affect vision such as diabetes.

"While the government may argue that changing the dollar bill will cost billions, it will pale in comparison to the costs of the vision loss epidemic," Cortes said.

* * *

Join GATA
at the
2007 Vancouver Resource Investment Conference
Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre
Sunday and Monday, January 21 and 22, 2007

http://www.cambridgeconferences.com/ch_jan2007.html

Admission is free for those who register in advance. The conference has arranged discount rates at the Pan Pacific Hotel adjacent to the convention center.

* * *

Help Keep GATA Going

GATA is a civil rights and educational organization based in the United States and tax-exempt under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Its e-mail dispatches are free, and you can subscribe at www.GATA.org. GATA is grateful for financial contributions, which are federally tax-deductible in the United States.