It came to me like the proverbial bolt from the blue! I was on a conference call for ACB in early December when, just in passing, someone mentioned our victory in district court against the Department of the Treasury. By now, everyone knows the judge ruled that Treasury had violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by failing to make currency accessible to blind and visually impaired people.
Before describing my somewhat modest proposal, let me state for the record my belief that the NFB is losing the hearts and minds of the average blind person and has been doing so for some time. Several years ago, a series of articles in an issue of "The Braille Monitor" incensed many of that organization's guide dog users to the point where a number of them decamped for Guide Dog Users, Inc. and ACB. More recently, the Federation's opposition to descriptive video sent another wave of head-scratching consternation through rank-and-file NFBers and, most certainly, caused more members to "forget" to renew their dues. And what do you think the reaction has been from the average member to NFB's opposition to accessible pedestrian signals?
Now, NFB is railing against accessible currency and several of our more astute members have commented that its opposition may be based primarily on the fact that the Federation didn't think of the idea first. As such, the typical NFB member may well be wondering in what universe their leadership is residing. Then again, maybe not. If most of our blind brothers and sisters in the other organization truly feel that they can trust everyone with whom they transact commerce involving the return of paper money, that they don't need to know the difference between a $1 and a $20 when it is handed to them, perhaps I can suggest a satisfactory alternative.
What the NFB may want to consider is to propose to the Treasury Department that every coin, regardless of the amount, be minted in one size, possibly to resemble the Louis Braille coin. All pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars and dollars could be identical in size and feel. After all, blind people are independent and don't need any accommodation when it comes to figuring out our money. The properly trained and well- adjusted blind person doesn't need such assistance and providing coins in different sizes only contributes to the stereotypic notion that blind people require preferential treatment in order to function on equal terms with their sighted peers. Doubtless such a proposition would gain widespread support.
Of course, since you can't fold coins -- thus allowing identification of one from another -- blind people would need to learn alternative techniques for distinguishing change. We would have to acquire compartmentalized coin purses, or keep change of different amounts in separate pockets. The former technique would clearly be good for the economy and would certainly be embraced by the manufacturers of such purses, not to mention by the vending machine industry.
The latter technique wouldn't be too difficult for men since our slacks usually have four pockets. There wouldn't be a problem for us if we limited our coins to pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I know this might be a bit of a hardship for women since their clothing doesn't typically have as many (or any) pockets. But, what the heck; having one standard coin would improve the image of blind people among the sighted public. It's a no-brainer!
So, what do you think? Should I forward this idea to Baltimore? ACB is, after all, here to help blind and visually impaired people, regardless of affiliation or philosophy. We just want to be of service. Now if you'll excuse me, I must go and extract my tongue from deep inside my cheek.
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