Federal Reserve notes featuring a tactile feature to aid the blind
and visually impaired won’t appear until 2020 when the first
redesigned $10 FRNs with the tactile feature will be released,
according to a recently released report from the Bureau of Engraving
BEP officials confirmed July 8 that the $10 FRN will be the next
denomination to be redesigned unless a counterfeiting threat arises
against another denomination; if that occurs, then the plan will be changed.
The report, titled “White Paper Regarding Meaningful Access to
U.S. Currency for Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals,” was
prepared by the BEP in response to what the report terms “the high
level and interest, and to enhance communication and openness.”
The report, dated June 27, 2013, was submitted to the U.S.
Treasury Office of Inspector General and the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
The raised tactile feature is among three accommodations
authorized in 2011 by then Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to
provide accessibility to U.S. currency for those who are blind or
visually impaired. The accommodations meet the requirement of a court
decision in a lawsuit filed in 2002. In May 2008 the United States
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower
court’s decision in 2006 that the Treasury failed to design, produce
and issue paper money that is readily distinguishable to blind and
visually impaired individuals.
The raised tactile feature will be unique to each denomination of
Federal Reserve notes. The tactile feature will be raised up from the
surface of the note.
Currently the BEP is evaluating “material and application methods
for ease of application, cost and tactility, in addition to durability
in circulation. The BEP continues to test various patterns and shapes
of tactile features to optimize their effectiveness for the blind and
visually impaired community,” according to the report. The BEP
anticipates it will have the application method selected in December
2013, which will determine the equipment required. The decision on the
application material is anticipated to be made by January 2015,
according to the report.
The most likely tactile feature would employ a hollow rectangle
because, according to the report, the BEP has determined it “to be
highly perceptible by touch.” The size of the rectangle is 6
millimeters vertically by 4 millimeters horizontally.
The report suggests that the feature could comprise “a 4-position
pattern, ... with a 14mm spacing between adjacent symbols (18mm on
center) to enhance the user’s ability to distinguish single symbols
within the denominating scheme. The user would denominate the note by
the number and location of elements in the pattern.”
The use of a raised tactile feature will be something new for U.S.
paper money. Tactile features are common on notes of other nations.
The tactile feature will be unique to each FRN denomination and
provide users with a means of identifying each denomination by way of
touch, the BEP states.
“Depending on the tactile feature selected, it is likely that the
BEP will need to purchase equipment in order to apply the tactile
element to the Federal Reserve note substrate,” according to the
report. “The complexity of this challenge should not be
underestimated; adding a tactile feature will significantly complicate
the Federal Reserve note production process. To maximize utility for
target users, the tactile features will be located in one position on
the note adding thickness to stacks of notes; the added thickness will
create feeding, cutting and packaging, as well as inventory issues for
Federal Reserve notes, which will likely render current equipment
incapable of processing them without costly modifications.”
In addition to equipment, modifications will also need to be made
to BEP headquarters, according to the report.
“Due to the age of the current buildings at the BEP’s Washington,
DC Facility, the process to prepare a space for installation of new
equipment could take up to three years and cost between $3 [million]
and $4 million.”
The other two measures to provide accessibility to U.S. currency
for those who are blind or visually impaired will be the continued use
of large, high-contrast numerals on FRNs, and the purchase and
distribution of handheld electronic currency readers, according to the report.
The size, color, placement, background contrast and other aspects
of the larger numerals are all factors that will have to be considered
in any future redesign.
The BEP received permission June 7 from Government Accountability
Office to purchase the currency readers and give them free to eligible
blind and visually impaired individuals. The BEP had requested an
opinion from the GAO as to whether the BEP could give, rather than
loan as government property, a currency reader to eligible individuals
as part of the BEP’s meaningful access program.
The BEP already had authority to operate a program to loan out
readers, but under a loaner program, the BEP would need to conduct
periodic checks on the condition of the government-owned readers.
Conducting the checks would have been costly, time-intensive and
burdensome to the visually impaired community, according to Treasury officials.
As of July 8, the BEP did not know the cost of the currency reader
program. The deadline for vendors/manufacturers to respond to the
BEP’s Request for Information on the cost such readers was July 8.
Once BEP officials review the information, they will have a better
idea of the cost of the program, according to a BEP spokeswoman.
According to the report, contracts for purchasing the readers are
expected to be awarded in 2014.
Copies of the “White Paper Regarding Meaningful Access to U.S.
Currency for Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals,” can be
downloaded from the BEP website, www.moneyfactory.gov.
Click the U.S. Currency button on the left side of the BEP home
page, and then click the Meaningful Access button on the drop down