The Future of Tactile Currency

When the topic of tactile markers on currency arose in our editorial meeting, the interns were enthusiastic and hopeful, so Nikhil decided to pursue the topic. In 2002, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) filed a formal complaint about the inaccessibility of U.S. paper currency for the visually impaired and blind. In 2020, 18 years later, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) continues to mount legal appeals, citing the “undue burden” that the government would endure if it were required to redesign paper currency to include tactile features. The ACB currently stands undefeated with two court victories, and it plans to emerge from the next month trial victorious. Although tactile currency is the norm in some countries, not everyone agrees. One point of view is that the lack of tactile features in U.S. currency represents an inconvenience rather than discrimination, the charge brought forth in the lawsuit against the BEP. Moreover, the ACB court order injunction mandates that there should be “meaningful access to United States currency for blind and other visually impaired persons,” but does not explicitly state there should be tactile markers on paper bills. To date, “meaningful access” has been provided through such initiatives as the U.S. Currency Reader Program and the creation of official currency identification apps.