Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Can't See What They're Thinking

I have quite a few blind and visually impaired acquaintences. It helps to understand the struggles, since I'll likely be there, myself, at some point in the future. Meanwhile, one of the things that always causes problems for them is our stinking US paper money. Some of them have elaborate ways of folding different denominations so they can find them in their wallets. Some keep certain bills in one pocket and other bills in a different pocket to keep them straight. But nearly always, they have to rely on other people to tell them which bills are which, and this results in trust issues and sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they are taken advantage of.

And then you go anywhere else in the world, and you see how that country's money wouldn't present the same challenges that ours does. Each denomination is a different size, or has the demonination numerals punched out in the money, and often different colors, which helps the folks who can see a little. Obviously, this would make their lives easier.

But in a recent statement from our government, they are appealing a ruling by a district court that our paper currency is discriminatory to blind people. The district court had noted that there are 180 countries in the world with paper money, and we're the only country that doesn't accommodate for visual impairments with our money in some way. The ruling says we can punch holes in our money or put Braille lettering on our money or make them different sizes, but we have to make it possible for all people in our country who use our money to be able to use our money.

Our government claims that it would be too hard for the vending machines to get switched. Is the Vending Machine Lobby honestly that powerful, that our government would send out a stupid sounding appeal? Thay also claim that varying the size would be inordinately expensive. Then vary the color and punch out numbers or add Braille dots!

Meanwhile, they say that the money isn't discriminatory, because blind folks can use portable currency readers. Oh sure, they can all afford to spend $270 to find out which money they are spending. The other option the appeals brief offers is that they could use credit cards. Can you find any segment of people that all qualify for credit cards? And since when does every retailer in the US take a credit card? One of our favorite restaurants over here only takes cash and check -- so blind people just aren't allowed to eat there because the VML is more important?

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