by Melanie Brunson
I have two items of news to share with you this month. The first concerns an update on the progress toward accessible currency. We recently learned that on May 31, 2011, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner gave his approval to the methods that the Department of the Treasury will use to provide people who are blind with meaningful access to U.S. currency. These methods include:
1. Adding a raised tactile feature to U.S. currency, which will provide users with a means of identifying each denomination of notes by touch;
2. Continuing the practice of adding high-contrast numerals and different colors to each denomination of notes that the law allows the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to alter; and
3. Implementing a supplemental currency reader distribution program for U.S. citizens and other legal residents of the U.S. who are blind or visually impaired.
According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's web site, these new note features will be introduced together in the next currency redesign following the redesigned $100 note. BEP intends to implement the currency reader program as soon as possible to provide some immediate relief to the blind and visually impaired population during the transition phase that will occur while notes with and without the accessible features mentioned above are both in circulation.
Please remember that it will still be some time before we begin to see any changes to our currency, but I wanted you to know that there is progress being made toward the achievement of this goal. ACB staff and officers have had some very positive discussions with officials from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing who are responsible for implementing this program. Visitors to the exhibit hall at our conference in Reno provided the bureau with feedback on tactile feature technologies that they are currently evaluating. We will keep you posted as efforts to implement these access features progress.
Now, on to a discussion of another important effort by another government agency -- the U.S. Department of Justice. On May 31, the Justice Department announced a comprehensive settlement agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Wells Fargo & Company to ensure equal access for individuals with disabilities to Wells Fargo's services nationwide, including its nearly 10,000 retail banking, brokerage and mortgage stores, over 12,000 ATMs, and its telephone and web site services. If you are currently, or have been a customer of Wells Fargo, or Wachovia Bank, which has merged with Wells Fargo, please review the following questions and respond as recommended, if you answer yes to any of the questions.
Have you experienced disability discrimination by Wells Fargo or Wachovia on or before May 31, 2011? For example, were you denied documents in a format you could read, charged extra for raised-line checks, or denied assistance in reading documents? If so, you may be able to get a payment under a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Wells Fargo. Get more information and submit a claim either by sending an e-mail to WFclaims@usdoj.gov or calling 1-866-708-1273 (voice mail) or 1-866-544-5309 (TTY). Note that all claims must be received before Jan. 29, 2012.
If you have not experienced a denial of accommodation covered by this settlement yourself, you may know other people who have, so please feel free to share this information with other people in your community. We are helping to spread the word about this settlement and we would appreciate it if our readers would join us in this effort.