Meaningful Access Program

Meaningful Access Program
Alison.Wargo@bep.gov Mon, 01/10/2022 - 14:25

In May 2002, the American Council of the Blind and two visually impaired individuals filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the currency of the United States violates the rights of the blind and visually impaired because they cannot denominate United States paper currency. 
 

Six years later, the District Court ruled that the Department of the Treasury must provide meaningful access to U.S. currency for blind and other visually impaired persons in the next currency redesign.  The Court also directed BEP to file status reports every six months, describing the steps taken to implement the Order and Judgment.

In July 2009, BEP commissioned and published a comprehensive study to review and analyze the needs of the blind and visually impaired, examine various methods that potentially could improve access to the currency, perform a cost impact analysis of the possible accommodations on various government and industry sectors, and provide a Decision Model whereby BEP could compare and contrast various accommodations.  The BEP utilized the study to generate its recommendations on providing meaningful access to Federal Reserve notes.

On May 20, 2010, the Department of the Treasury and BEP issued a notice in the Federal Register to inform the public of the features BEP will propose to the Secretary of the Treasury and to solicit public comment on the proposed accommodations.  The public comment period closed on August 18, 2010.  Comments may still be viewed at www.regulations.gov.  As part of the public comment process, BEP hosted two open public forums simultaneously at its Washington, D.C. and Fort Worth, TX facilities. Transcripts from these forums are available to view at www.regulations.gov.

On May 31, 2011, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner approved the methods that the Department of the Treasury is pursuing to provide blind and visually impaired individuals with meaningful access to U.S. currency.  The Secretary approved the following accommodations which are based on feedback from the study and feedback from the public:

  • A Raised, Tactile Feature:  Adding a raised tactile feature to U.S. currency unique to each Federal Reserve note that it may lawfully change1, which will provide users with a means of identifying each denomination via touch.  1Currently, U.S. law prohibits any changes to the $1 Federal Reserve note.

  • High Contrast Numerals:  Continuing the program of adding large high contrast numerals and different colors to each denomination that it is permitted by law to alter.

  • A Currency Reader Program:  Implementing a currency reader distribution program for blind and visually impaired U.S. citizens and those legally residing in the U.S.

In June 2012, the Senate Committee on Appropriations issued Senate Report 112-177. This report directed BEP to provide a detailed plan, including a timeline, to develop, design, test and print currency with accessibility features.

Two years later, BEP proudly launched a program making currency readers available for free for all eligible U.S. citizens and national residents who are blind or visually impaired.