Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The color of money

The US Court of Appeals upheld a 2006 ruling which maintained that the United States currency discriminates against the visually impaired. I agree with this decision, and feel that it should not have had to suffer the year and a half delay of the appeals process. I really hope that the Treasury Department doesn't further delay the implementation of new currency standards with further appeals. As Judge Robertson wrote in the 2006 decision: "Of the more than 180 countries that issue paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations."

I always thought that the "funny money" of other nations was cool - I liked the different sizes and colors of the bills. But what I learned through experience was that after only a short time in a foreign country, I could easily find the right bills in my wallet to pay for things because of the bold differences. The blind in our own country are not afforded this ease, even after living here for a lifetime. Because there are no differences in size or texture, a blind person has to rely on another person to organize her cash, and has to trust that other people make change correctly. Compared to the overall cost of producing currency, the incremental cost to make appropriate accommodation is not meaningful. While it admittedly poses an inconvenience and expense to certain constituencies (namely, vending machine manufacturers), creating easily distinguished currency is clearly the right thing for our government to do.

No comments: