Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Discriminatory Dollars

A federal court ruled today that the treasury department discriminates against the blind by . . . get this . . . printing money!
Well, not exactly. But, the court did rule that the fact that different denominations aren't distinguishable by touch violates the Rehabilitation Act. In essence, the government needs to make sure that blind people can tell a $5 from a $10 from a $20 by touch.
I'm not saying this isn't a problem, but where does it end? Aren't the Homeland Security color alerts discriminatory? How does someone know what an "orange" threat level is if they've never seen color?
There's no really effective way to comply with this decision. Make each denomination a different size? won't they need to carry several reference cards for comparison? (not to mention the forced redesign or replacement of every single vending machine / ATM / counting machine / ticket machine / cash register / wallet in the country). Print raised marks on the bills? That will last until the bill gets wadded up or washed, and what a great way to counterfeit! a few minutes with a needle, and viola! all my ones are twenties. Texture? How many different textures are there, and do they survive wadding?
Some difficulty is, I think, an inevitable result of blindness. That's why it is called a handicap. There's nothing wrong with trying to help the blind, but I don't think the court thought this one through.
Incidentally, I'm not simply being "ableist", the American Federation for the Blind opposes changing the money too.