Paper Money

BEP proposes reader coupons

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has requested approval to implement a coupon program to enable blind and visually impaired people to purchase handheld currency readers as part of President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget.

According to the proposal, the BEP has the authority to operate a program to loan out the readers but a coupon program “is a more cost-effective method and would save at least $150 million over 10 years.”

The BEP “is seeking authority to implement a cheaper, more efficient coupon program to distribute the currency readers.”

“Under a loaner program, BEP would need to conduct periodic checks on the condition of the readers, as they are government property. Conducting the checks would be costly, time-intensive, and burdensome to the visually impaired community,” according to the Treasury proposal.


The coupon program is one of three enhancements approved by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner in September 2011 to help blind and visually impaired persons identify Federal Reserve note denominations.

The enhancements are part of the BEP’s program to offer the blind and visually impaired “meaningful access” to FRNs in compliance with a 2008 United States Court of Appeals decision. The 2008 decision upheld a lower court ruling that the Treasury failed to design, produce and issue paper money that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired individuals. The decision involved a lawsuit filed in 2002.

The other two approved enhancements have to do with the design of notes — raised tactile features and large, high-contrast numerals.

The use of a raised tactile feature would 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.

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 1996 generation of notes features an infrared machine-readable feature that can be read with a handheld currency reader. That feature was introduced beginning with the May 24, 2000, release of Series 1999 $5 and $10 notes.

In April 2011, a free mobile phone and tablet application developed by the BEP to assist blind and visually impaired users to denominate Federal Reserve notes was made available. The EyeNote application uses image recognition technology to determine a note’s denomination through a mobile device’s camera and announces the denomination audibly. ¦

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