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Dollar for Dollar?
May 20, 2008 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Stemming from a lawsuit that has gone on for several years, a recent Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. government must make bills with distinguishable tactile features to benefit the blind. While the U.S. government disagrees, the judges say: "The government might as well argue that, since handicapped people can crawl on all fours or ask for help from strangers, there's no need to make buildings wheelchair accessible." Not all blind people agree with the decision. posted by jabberjaw (74 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I find it pretty annoying that all bills are the same size, and I'm not blind.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:13 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am picturing every vending machine and ATM in America right now. Every register that has a cash drawer. Every cash-counting machine. Every machine that makes change.
posted by prefpara at 9:22 AM on May 20, 2008


Is your money still all the same color?
posted by dobbs at 9:24 AM on May 20, 2008


Well, they added pink to one of the bills recently- the 10, I think?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:25 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oher countries have somehow managed this transition without undergoing economic collapse. Too bad we didn't get started six years ago, when the Bush administration started fighting this.

TPS: I've been getting 5s recently with one letter in purple.
posted by gerryblog at 9:27 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


One number, I mean, of course.
posted by gerryblog at 9:27 AM on May 20, 2008


I live in Canada and our money up here has the raised braille marks. One of my friends is blind and he says that the marks help only some of the time as was mentioned in several of the articles, they wear out after some time. I think that instituting different sizes to denote different levels of monetary value would be a lot easier on those with visual impairments.
posted by Fizz at 9:27 AM on May 20, 2008


It doesn't sound like the blind people are objecting to the change. Just that they've survived so far without it.

As for the cost of converting: We've done it for many other things and the world didn't end. Quite the contrary, as people have often found that thile they could "manage" before they actually enjoy doing things now.

Not to mention that converting all the money handling equipment is a boon to the economy. And OMG, I just realized that physically varying bills will make it easier for vending machines to accept bills! No more spending 20 minutes smoothing my 1 $1 to force the machine to take it!
posted by DU at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2008


It must suck to be blind, but on the other hand, it's possible to go overboard making allowances for every conceivable hardship or misfortune. We are not all equal in the USA, we are due equal (unbiased) treatment under the law, and that's all there is to it. I don't see US currency as "discriminating against" the blind, in the sense that ethnic minorities were subjected to institutionalized discrimination in this country. See Harrison Bergeron for more about the perils of devotion to equality.
posted by Mister_A at 9:29 AM on May 20, 2008


New Zealand money is awesome.

Plastic. Seriously. Raised ridged patterns to distinguish between a $5 and $100, money is different sizes, and of course, it goes through the wash unharmed.
posted by BrianBoyko at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


>Not all blind people agree with the decision.

You can always find an Uncle Ruckus if that's what you're looking for.
posted by Skwirl at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Denying blind people a simple concession that sighted people wouldn't even notice three weeks after it was implemented is too high a price to pay. Freedom!
posted by gerryblog at 9:32 AM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


In 1991, they changed the bills to add microprinting and a security strip. In 1996, they changed the whole design, made the faces big and added a bunch of new anti-counterfeit technology. Now they're redesigning again and adding colors, along with still more anti-counterfeit gizmos. Not a single one of these overhauls, which cost a whole lot of money, included any sort of denominational tactile change. You wouldn't even need to change the sizes of the bills; just scallop one corner with different patterns. There's no reason that this didn't happen twenty years ago.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


I don't see US currency as "discriminating against" the blind, in the sense that ethnic minorities were subjected to institutionalized discrimination in this country.

By that argument, it should be legal to pay women less for the same work because it "isn't as bad as" giving them smallpox-infected blankets.

The question isn't "is Action A better than or worse than Known Discrimination B". The question is "is Action A discrimination, period".
posted by DU at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2008


PS: The average life of a $1 bill is 21 months. If we'd started in 2002, passively replacing money as it wore out, we could have replaced a huge portion of the money in circulation by now without breaking a sweat.
posted by gerryblog at 9:36 AM on May 20, 2008


No, that's not what I'm getting at at all, DU. US currency is not a systematic attempt to "stick it to the blindies", and US currency doesn't prevent blind people from being part of US society.
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on May 20, 2008




I'd add the caveat "... and is there a reasonable remediation". Just because we have people in wheelchairs doesn't mean we have to pave and ramp 100% of public facilities (eg. Yosemite NP).

posted by tachikaze at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2008


US currency is not a systematic attempt to "stick it to the blindies"

I guess there is Active Discrimination, and Passive Discrimination.

I remember my college campus having to add ramps to every building in the early 90s. When the buildings were constructed, nobody obviously gave a damn about the people in wheelchairs.

Yet we accomodate them now.

Your argument here fails.
posted by tachikaze at 9:44 AM on May 20, 2008


But when will they get rid of the one dollar bill? Stop printing the dollar and ramp up how fast you mint the $1 coin, and you're already 1/7th the way towards compliance!
posted by Weebot at 9:44 AM on May 20, 2008


I am completely against having different sizes of bills. When I've been in countries with bills like that, it drove me batty that I couldn't get them to all line up perfectly in my wallet or what-have-you. It wasn't neat and tidy. It rankled me. Rankled, I tell you!

But it really seems like some sort of change would be easy to manage.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2008


US currency is not a systematic attempt to "stick it to the blindies"

Actually, one could argue that the continued non-inclusion of these features through multiple redesigns is exactly that.

But that is irrelevant, since that's not what "discrimination" means. Being paid less doesn't prevent women from being part of US society either. In fact, if anything, blind markings on bills have a better discrimination case than women in the workplace, because it's a governmental matter, not private businesses.
posted by DU at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2008


As noted above, New Zealand has different sized bank notes, as does Australia. Their money is also made of polymer, I guess making it easier to add tactile distinctions to them that won't wear away.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:47 AM on May 20, 2008


Revamping the currency seems like a lot of expense for little gain.

Discrimination, by the way, is an active thing. Taunting the blind for their handicap is discrimination. Thinking them inferior to the sighted is discrimination. Currency is not discriminatory unless it is specifically designed to stick it to them. When you decide that you can get away with paying a woman less for her work than you would a man for the same work, because she is a woman, that is discrimination. People in this country see discrimination everywhere. Basketball discriminates against short people! Track and field discriminates against the slow of foot! Airline seats discriminate against the obese and big-boned! Money doesn't discriminate. My opinion of this currency business is that it's really not where we need to be spending our resources right now. It is an inconvenience to some people. Changing US currency would make some things marginally easier for a small portion of the population, but I don't think it is a warranted change. You are free to disagree.
posted by Mister_A at 9:58 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the answer is printed on the money: "In God We Trust." The blind people can just throw down a bill, and God will ensure they choose the right one.
posted by mullingitover at 9:59 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


At first I thought the ruling meant that everything that passed through Congress needed to be transcribed into Braille.

My uncle, who is blind, never seems to have a problem handling paper money. He keeps money in order of denomination in his wallet and just remembers how many of each bill he has.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:59 AM on May 20, 2008


Could the tactile elements be faked on bills, or is touch sensitive enough to detect this? Not that one could necessarily make a business out of passing 'counterfeit' bills to the blind...just curious.
posted by troybob at 10:02 AM on May 20, 2008


I find it pretty annoying that all bills are the same size, and I'm not blind.

I agree, although as I'm not even American perhaps my opinion doesn't count much. But the very occasional times I've had to deal with US currency it's annoyed me.

I recall there was a similar discussion here recently about coins and someone pointed out that the various denominations of British coinage were easily discernable even by touch because they vary in shape, size and composition.
posted by electricinca at 10:05 AM on May 20, 2008


I don't think this is discrimination. Being hearing impaired, it would be NICE if everything, everywhere was subtitled, but I don't think movie theaters, etc. are actively or passively trying to fuck me over. (yes, I know there are assistive hearing devices in most movie theaters, but cranking up the volume doesn't help me understand the dialogue.) Requiring subtitles in every movie would probably be quite annoying to many normal-hearing folks, not to mention the illiterate, and would be costly for the theaters, raising everyone's ticket prices to benefit a few. And they're of no benefit at all to the blind!
posted by desjardins at 10:14 AM on May 20, 2008


He keeps money in order of denomination in his wallet and just remembers how many of each bill he has.

Constantly remembering how many of each bill you have sounds like a huge burden that's guaranteed to involve a lot of error, and could be easily eliminated by having different-sized bills.

Requiring subtitles in every movie would probably be quite annoying to many normal-hearing folks

But do you really think that applies here? I'm not blind or hearing-impaired; I would hate to have English subtitles in English-language movies, but I would be happy to use different currency if it helped the blind at all.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:19 AM on May 20, 2008


Like folks above have mentioned, Polymer banknotes are where it's at. They're pretty awesome. Australia uses variable size, strong colour contrasts and bold numerals to aid in identification.

Until the recent issue of the new pastel bills, the US was the only country in the world to have common colours for all bank notes. A 1995 survey runs down the different options for distinguishing notes.
posted by zamboni at 10:25 AM on May 20, 2008


If you read the ADA Q&A it is clear that

a) failure to provide a method for the blind to use money is indeed discrimination (for instance, see the question about businesses having to do things as small as moving shelving around). Arguments from "this doesn't seem like discrimination to me are non-starters.

b) a solution can be demanded if one is "readily available". Given the fact that paper money and coins have undergone redesign since the ADA went into effect, it was at one point "readily available" (and, I would argue, still is) to make a change like this.
posted by DU at 10:28 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Off the top of my head, there are eight note-issuing banks in the UK. They all issue notes of different design, changing fairly regularly. In the last twenty years or so, the pound note has disappeared, to be replaced by a coin. the two pound coin entered general circulation, as did the 20 pence coin. The 50 pence, 10 pence and 5 pence all changed size and composition. The half pence disappeared.

Bank notes and coins change all the time. It would entail no extra expense to introduce some measure during one of these periodic changes to allow blind people to discern the difference between banknotes. Not to do so is just saying you can't be arsed to be courteous and considerate. "Can't see me giving you the finger, can ya, blind boy?"
posted by Jakey at 10:29 AM on May 20, 2008


I am picturing every vending machine and ATM in America right now. Every register that has a cash drawer. Every cash-counting machine. Every machine that makes change.

Why does this change have to mean significant changes to the structure of the bills? How hard is it to punch out a braille number in each bill, or raise the embossing of the number just enough that it is perceptable to the touch?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:31 AM on May 20, 2008


My theory on why the US is resistant to the dollar coin has to do with tipping - you have to maintain a supply of money in order to give the correct amount, and it's easier to carry a wad of dollar bills than a pocket full of coins.
posted by zamboni at 10:32 AM on May 20, 2008


I live in Canada and our money up here has the raised braille marks.

There's also the large number that's in raised/textured ink in the lower right corner of the "face" side of the bill. Going by the sample of bills I have on hand, that seems to hold up better than the braille-ish dots. With that, I can tell a pick out a fiver with my eyes closed but the two-digit bills were trickier.
posted by CKmtl at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2008


Why does this change have to mean significant changes to the structure of the bills? How hard is it to punch out a braille number in each bill, or raise the embossing of the number just enough that it is perceptable to the touch?

My comment was a reaction to the idea of changing the sizes of the bills, which could potentially affect most of the machines that we currently rely on to identify and deal with paper money.

However, this opinion only seems to call for "tactile features" which could create some problems, but on what would certainly be a far smaller scale.
posted by prefpara at 10:40 AM on May 20, 2008


Braille might be OK, come to think of it, because the cotton-fiber paper US currency is printed on is pretty tough and may hold the marks. My concern here is that the marks might deteriorate in such a way as to obscure the denomination. Still, I am certain that blind people will continue to order their money in a certain way as described above, and remember how many of each they have. Remember too, that blind people generally return to the same places of business, because they know the layout and are comfortable with the staff, trust that they won't get ripped off, etc. These are necessary adaptations, and no amount of money-altering is going to change these facts. Blind people are still going to return to the places where they are comfortable, where they know people, where they know the layout, regardless of the size or shape of US currency. So really, how does this help?
posted by Mister_A at 10:44 AM on May 20, 2008


> Not to mention that converting all the money handling equipment is a boon to the economy.

That's kind of a broken-window fallacy. Sure, it might be beneficial to some sectors of the economy, but the cost has to be borne somewhere; the question is whether using those resources to replace all the soda-machine bill acceptors in the country is really the best possible use for maximum public gain.

Anyway, I think there are solutions that would be more friendly to the blind (and to sighted people looking for bills at the bottom of their pocketbook in the dark, or whatever) that don't involve changing the size; scalloped edges would be one solution; perhaps holes instead of raised Braille would be another.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:02 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


scalloped edges would be one solution; perhaps holes instead of raised Braille would be another.

Think about the structural integrity of said bank notes.
posted by zamboni at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2008




What just strikes me as batshit insane is why the hell did the US Government spend 6 years fighting an issue, that a) it must have known it would lose and b) required probably a similar amount of cash spunking on lawyers than it would have done to implement the changes?

How decisions like that get made, just drives me completly crazy. That someone can go to the office and sort throught their email, have a meeting and decide to take the "whole blind people can't use cash thing" to court, for 6 years. .

Despicable, seriously.
posted by munchbunch at 11:14 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]




Vis a vis the whole cost of conversion thing.

Don't forget that many EUropean countries managed to change their entire currencies only 4 years ago. It took 3 months from new currency entering circulation to old currency being effectivly fazed out.
posted by munchbunch at 11:18 AM on May 20, 2008


Canadian money also has a pattern of black squares arranged in a vertical stripe which can be used by machinery to read denominations. The CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) distributes a hand-held device that uses these patterns to speak a bill's denomination aloud, which comes in handy when you receive a mixed handful of crumpled bills in change.
posted by Crosius at 11:25 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Way back in the 80's the Malaysian government decided to add indicator dots to the Ringgit notes in order to make them more accessible to blind people - one dot would indicate 10 ringgit, two dots would indicate twenty, three would be fifty, etc.

They just forgot to make the dots tactile.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2008


Mister_A, the law disagrees with you. Under various laws prohibiting discrimination against disabled people, things that are not intended to stick it to anybody, such as a lack of ramps, are legally defined as discrimination. The court explained the concept well with its "crawling on all fours" example. Sure, a person with a disability can often find ways to cope, but why should they have to if there is a reasonable means to give them access to the same things everyone else enjoys without thinking (ie, entering a building, using a public restroom, paying for dinner with paper money)?

I've never understood why the ADA pisses some people off so much. How does it harm a non-disabled person to make society more accessible for people with disabilities? Why not get pissed at the government for wasting time and resources on this nonsense instead of just changing the damn money?
posted by Mavri at 11:28 AM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Debit cards have raised numbers on the front. Pin pads have braille. Why even bother debating using currency?
posted by grahamux at 11:30 AM on May 20, 2008


why the hell did the US Government spend 6 years fighting an issue, that a) it must have known it would lose and b) required probably a similar amount of cash spunking on lawyers than it would have done to implement the changes?

munchbunch, allow me to point you to this excellent This American Life episode entitled "The Audacity of Government" (previously discussed here) for a glimpse into the current Administration's M.O. when it comes to litigation.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 11:34 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Debit cards have raised numbers on the front. Pin pads have braille. Why even bother debating using currency?

Not all places take debit/credit.

And personally, if I couldn't see, I'd be extra freaked out about the possibility of my card being skimmed and/or my PIN compromised.
posted by CKmtl at 11:47 AM on May 20, 2008


What just strikes me as batshit insane is why the hell did the US Government spend 6 years fighting an issue, that a) it must have known it would lose and b) required probably a similar amount of cash spunking on lawyers than it would have done to implement the changes?

Because.
posted by oaf at 11:51 AM on May 20, 2008


Should've previewed.
posted by oaf at 11:52 AM on May 20, 2008


I don't have a problem with the ADA, it's a wonderful example of the positive impact governments can have on the lives of citizens. My question is, is this reasonable? I am not convinced that it is. Factors in reasonableness are the magnitude of the problem and the challenges of implementing the solution(s). Unfunded mandates from appellate courts are not my idea of reasonable; I would have no problem had the court mandated an impact study, which is something Washington clearly should have done a long time ago.
posted by Mister_A at 12:03 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd definitely have to get a new wallet if we went to euro-style notes, or I wouldn't be able to carry anything larger than €20.
posted by oaf at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2008


All right, I can see someone doubting the reasonableness of this. I'm not an expert on money or blindness, but I think a lot of people in this thread have given reasons why it could be fairly simple, especially given the life-span of paper money and the ongoing redesign of our money.
posted by Mavri at 12:09 PM on May 20, 2008


Mister_A: But compared to other costs demanded by the ADA, this should just be the trivial matter of adding another machine to the production line. Quite literally we are talking about something that will cost pennies per taxpayer, or on the order of $10 per blind person in the United States once. Spread out over the lifetime of the stamping machine, this isn't a huge cost at all.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:14 PM on May 20, 2008


Unfunded mandates from appellate courts are not my idea of reasonable

How is this situation unreasonable? Finding facts and rendering judgments are the purpose of courts.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:56 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hell, if it's cheap I say go for it.
posted by Mister_A at 12:57 PM on May 20, 2008


I wonder if the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court or not...
posted by shivohum at 1:00 PM on May 20, 2008


Your favourite currency sucks.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:51 PM on May 20, 2008


I heard that the national organization of obsessive compulsive money organizers was so incensed at this ruling that they voted to assassinate the plaintiffs and lawyers involved in the suit. They are arguing right now about whether to organize the hit list: alphabetically by last name, alpha by first name, in regional groupings with alpha suborder, or ranked in priority order. Also, whether to color code the associated assassins to each target, or use a numerical designator. There is a side faction who wants to create a seperately ordered hit list for every possible sort/subsort/color combination order, but they are breaking down on whether to staple, hole punch, or velobind the list.

Also, the voting is somewhat complicated by which rules of procedure are to be used, and trying to count the vote of the guy who is furiously rearranging the folding chairs to make sure they are spaced exactly equidistant from one another.

I'll post again live on scene as the gripping developments continue.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:17 PM on May 20, 2008


Everyone is talking about dots or different sized bills, and I'm puzzled as to why. There's a much simpler solution that would be perfectly effective and wouldn't require new machinery for bill handling. Cut corners.

One possible sequence would look like this:

$1 = no corners cut.
$5 = upper left corner cut off
$10 = upper left and upper right
$20 = upper left and lower right
$50 = upper right and lower right
$100 = All corners cut off

Simple, easy, and not really confusable. The patterns I chose would be unique regardless as to how the bill is oriented, which I imagine would be a damn good idea. Besides, octagonal hundreds would just plain be cool.
posted by sotonohito at 3:22 PM on May 20, 2008


What if I took a $1 bill, some scissors, and went to town? Would I then be able to convince any blind people that I was actually handing them a $100? The change would have to be something difficult to counterfeit.
posted by Ms. Saint at 3:36 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't tactile elements become worn down after awhile, given that many $1 dollar bills reach you with approximately the feel of (unused) toilet paper? Of course, the bill machines also tend to reject these worn bills.
posted by bad grammar at 4:23 PM on May 20, 2008


Cut corners.

Because removing the corners from all pieces of paper is the first step in the Cylon invasion. It prevents us from poking out the oscillating eye of a centurian.
posted by stet at 5:02 PM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Where I work (a state agency), there is a little cafe thing run by a blind guy who also often handles the cash register. People just tell him what they are buying, he totals it up on the register, then they tell him how much money they are handing him, and he trusts them. Well, for twenties, he has one of those little scanner things that he lays the bill in, and it says, cheerily, "Twenty!".

Granted it's a limited field of customers so if someone cheated him they'd probably get caught / found rather quickly.

I might just ask him tomorrow what he thinks of this.
posted by marble at 5:56 PM on May 20, 2008


I guess this means U.S. dollars still have some value.
posted by notreally at 6:07 PM on May 20, 2008


What if I took a $1 bill, some scissors, and went to town? Would I then be able to convince any blind people that I was actually handing them a $100?

If you make the bills progressively bigger as their value increases this scenario is not possible.
posted by Wolof at 6:18 PM on May 20, 2008


Mister_A writes "My question is, is this reasonable? I am not convinced that it is."

Why not?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:27 PM on May 20, 2008


Two things:

1. It seems to me that making the bills all different sizes would be a dumb solution in situations where there is only one bill and nothing to compare it to, unless it was possible to somehow memorize the feel of each particular size. (Maybe some people could do that, but to me that's like identifying a note by ear - easy to do by comparison, but hard to do individually.) I agree with sotonohito that some kind of edge modification would be easy to implement and easy to use.

2. Why is everyone concerned about cash drawers? Who cares if the bills fit snugly into the slot? That's what the spring-loaded flapper things are for.
posted by Dr. Send at 7:28 PM on May 20, 2008


Or they could just pay with a credit card like everyone else.
posted by sophist at 9:32 PM on May 20, 2008


What if I took a $1 bill, some scissors, and went to town? Would I then be able to convince any blind people that I was actually handing them a $100? The change would have to be something difficult to counterfeit.

You could reverse the proposed order of cutting.

Or they could just pay with a credit card like everyone else.

Which raises the question of how they avoid getting scammed on credit cards.
posted by Brian B. at 10:10 PM on May 20, 2008


US money evolved, Australian money was intelligently designed. It really would only take a few years to replace it all, and there's no reason for the old stuff to stop being legal tender until it's all destroyed.

However in the absence of a sensible redesign, this kind of device would be a good solution, if it worked properly, and if you could fit it in a wallet or purse. Outright making it a wallet could work well. Something that takes up the space of a folded-up wallet, with reasonable flexibility, with space for a few cards etc as well as notes.

Lower-tech ideas: there's a kind of pen you can get, I have no idea what it's called, that is designed to put small hard ridges onto cloth, for easy making of decorations. Craft and cloth shops sell them. It might work on money.

It's a bit more legally dubious, but you might be able to make marks with a sewing machine, or discreetly sew thread through a bill with a needle.

Alternatively, a braille stamp that doesn't penetrate the bill shouldn't render it not legal tender. It wouldn't be too hard to design a kind of "stamping press" in which you put a known bill, and bring a preset patterned stamp down on it, hard enough to leave a mark that should persist for a while. I remember about fifteen years ago when Magic: the Gathering first came out, there was a blind guy in the club I went to who had a small stamping machine for his cards. Maybe dampening a bill, stamping it with a hot stamp, then letting it dry would make the mark persist for longer.

A small machine that combines identifying and marking wouldn't be too hard to make. Maybe the identification function could be done with a computer program and a scanner, and the marker made as a USB device? Is there a program that will run on a computer, with a scanner attached, and identify scanned bills?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:37 PM on May 20, 2008


desjardins: ...subtitles in every movie would probably be quite annoying to many normal-hearing folks, not to mention the illiterate...

Atleast in Canada alot of theaters already do this.
look for the screens at the theater that say RWC
posted by Iax at 12:44 AM on May 21, 2008


It seems to me that making the bills all different sizes would be a dumb solution in situations where there is only one bill and nothing to compare it to, unless it was possible to somehow memorize the feel of each particular size.

On the subway in Munich, I saw a blind woman happily demonstrating this plastic device she had to some people who may have been students or tourists. You could put one end of the up to a raised line, fold it over, and then tell what denomination it was based on how far it got on the other side.

My wallet is too short for most foreign currency (and any euro notes other than €5 or €10 will end up horribly mangled after a while). Even Canadian currency tends to get crinkled a bit at the top.
posted by oaf at 9:55 AM on May 21, 2008


Is this reasonable?

As has been pointed out numerous times upthread, mints are constantly redesigning their currencies. In fact, a sizable portion of the bureaucracy at national mints in the U.S. and the rest of the world is given over to the task of constantly remaking the currency -- and when they're not doing that, designing collectors' issues. Keep in mind that while the U.S. Mint was fighting this change, they were issuing a new state quarter every 10 weeks.

To make the denominations tactilely recognizable is not an unreasonable qualification for the next round of redesigns, nor was it unreasonable six or ten or twenty years ago. What we have here is another case of institutional government resistance to the accommodation of minority needs an end in and of itself, an exercise in power, not because it would be prohibitively expensive to accommodate them. This isn't a uniquely American affliction either; it has happened up here in Canada on many issues. Luckily in 1982 we armed our activist judges with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, making institutional discrimination a little easier to fight.

There are cases where court-ordered accommodation of minority needs may arguably go too far. But it's really hard for me to believe that this is one of them.
posted by kowalski at 12:23 PM on May 21, 2008


is this reasonable? I am not convinced that it is.

Well, when you have a stupid system that needs changing, sometimes it takes legal compulsion to get past all the vested interests, ingrained resistance and bullshit that keep a system stupid. It's unreasonable for the zinc lobby to keep the stupid penny in circulation. It's unreasonable for the lobbying interests for paper producers and vending machines to make the dollar coin DOA. It's unreasonable to say that blind people should lose out in order to keep your bloody wallet slim.

Sometimes it takes a decision like this to deliver a nice, focusing kick up the arse. Proposing workarounds just means you want to keep a stupid system in place.
posted by holgate at 1:33 PM on May 21, 2008


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