In a 2-1 decision, the panel said that the Treasury gave no justification for currency to be uniform to the touch and sent the case back to the district court to determine how the blind will be given “meaningful access” to paper money.
“Upon casual inspection, anyone with good vision can readily discern the value of U.S. currency; yet even the most searching tactile examination will reveal no difference between a $100 bill and a $1 bill,” wrote Judge Judith Rogers for the majority.
The American Council of the Blind has suggested several ways of distinguishing bills, such as changing their shapes and sizes or adding embossed dots or foil.
The ACB sued the treasury in 2002, alleging that the physical design of paper currency violated a section of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires that the government provide individuals with disabilities access to federal services. The Bush administration argued that the financial burden of tailoring new currency would be too great.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson sided with the ACB, ordering the Treasury to devise a way of bringing paper currency in compliance. The Bush administration appealed his decision.