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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Court of Appeals rules paper inaccessible to the blind

American money may change, which would entail more than just an enlarged purple five as seen on new $5 bills.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 that paper money is inaccessible to blind people since different denominations cannot be distinguished by touch. Following this ruling, the Department of the Treasury may decide on how to redesign the currency. Over 100 other countries vary the size of bills based on value or include other features to help the blind, according to an Associated Press article.

The U.S. government is against the ruling, seeing the currency redesign as an economic and undue burden, according to AP.

The government needs to get over their reluctance to spend money to change the currency, said Catherine Kudlick, professor of history, who is legally blind.

“We spend billions on things less valuable than this,” Kudlick said.

The National Federation of the Blind denounced the court ruling. Mary Willows, a teacher with the National Federation of the Blind of California, said she agrees with the NFB opinion.

“The position of the [NFB] on the accessible currency is that there are more critical issues facing the blind, like quiet electric cars that make no sounds when blind people are crossing the street,” Willows said. “We consider that more of a critical issue than if you can feel the money in your wallet.”

The American Council of the Blind is of a different camp. After the court ruled in favor of currency changes, the ACB president, Mitch Pomerantz said this is a positive step forward.

“This is a tremendous victory for the ACB and for every blind and visually impaired person living in the United States today and in the future,” Pomerantz said in a press-release.

The NFB president, Marc Maurer, said the court ruling reinforces the misconception that blind people cannot function in society as is, according to a press release.

Brandon Young, the office manager at the Living Skills Center for the Visually Impaired in San Pablo, said he disagrees with the NFB renouncement, especially as a blind person himself who works around blind people on a daily basis.

“The NFB wants equality for blind people. While in reality, changing the money would help us in so many ways,” he said.

Ivan Schwab, professor of ophthalmology at the UC Davis Medical Center, said he did not know which side of the issue he agreed with, as he would have to see further implications of the ruling.

“But I like the concept that blind people shouldn’t be seen as cripples. Most blind people I know are adept at adapting to the situation,” Schwab said.

Despite the controversy within the blind world about the money redesign, changing paper money could help others along with the blind, such as the elderly and workers at stores or banks. The enlarged numbers already added to bills were an effort to help the visually impaired. Greater changes could help the weak-sighted even further, Kudlick said.

“You want to think of changing the money as a benefit not just for the blind but society as a whole,” Kudlick said. “Let’s make money accessible for everybody.”

 

SASHA LEKACH can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com

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