One of the challenges to being blind or severely visually impaired is the difficulty one faces in handling money. Most paper money is identified visually, obviously not an option for someone who cannot see.
According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing a law suit was filed by the American Council of the Blind and two visually impaired individuals in 2002 to compel the Department of the Treasury to make paper money accessible to the blind. The suit was considered controversial at the time, with a rival group, the National Federation of the Blind, passing a resolution asserting that the suit was unnecessary since blind people have been able to participate in commerce without tactile money. The resolution also asserted that the visually impaired community would suffer a stigma because of the publicity surrounding the lawsuit.
Nevertheless the United States District Court in which the suit was filed finally found for the plaintiffs in 2008. Thus the Department of the Treasury has set about creating paper money that can be identified by touch.
Other measures include using large, high contrast numbers that can be read by low vision people and creating a currency reader that can tell someone with no vision what the domination of the money is.
According to the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, a state agency that provides services to the blind and disabled, a group of DARS volunteers are testing some of the new tactile money at the Chris Cole Rehabilitative Center in Austin. It is one of a number of such groups who are conducting the tests.
“Each person was asked to non-visually perform structured tasks to see how long it took to identify the denomination of each bill and organize a stack of bills correctly. Tests were also performed to see if worn bills could be identified.”
It is estimated that tactile money will be available in 2020, 18 years after the original law suit was filed.