American Council of The Blind - Actions - Lawsuit To Make U.S. Currency Accessible

Lawsuit To Make U.S. Currency Accessible

One example of the differences between the ACB and NFB concerns the question of making U.S. currency more accessible to blind persons. In 2002 the ACB filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury alleging it to be in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act on account of the Treasury's "repeated and continuing failures to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired people."

The National Federation of the Blind opposed the lawsuit, asserting in its Resolution 2002-25 that "blind people are apt to suffer great harm from the attendant publicity surrounding this suit, fostering and reinforcing the notion that the blind cannot easily handle currency as it now exists and, for example, needlessly creating an albatross around the neck of any blind person seeking employment in any position involving handling money."

On November 28, 2006, Judge James Robertson, trying the suit in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in the ACB's favor. Judge Robertson directed that a status conference be held in which the Treasury and the ACB would work together to devise a remedy. The Treasury appealed the decision.

On December 12, 2006, the NFB responded to the ruling with a press release asserting that "United States currency does not discriminate against blind people" and calling Judge Robertson's decision "dangerous and wrong."

On May 20, 2008, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld Judge Robertson's decision, ruling 2-1 that the United States does discriminate against blind people because its paper money consists of bills that are all the same size regardless of denomination. The ruling received widespread media coverage. The government may choose to appeal the decision to the full complement of D.C. Circuit judges, or it may appeal to the Supreme Court.

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