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December 13, 2006

Bush administration fights currency changes to help the blind

Today in self-parody, the Bush administration is fighting changes to US currency designed to help the blind. Why shouldn't we micro-perforate our money and introduce bills of different sizes to benefit the visually impaired and possibly frustrate counterfeiters in the process?

Because these changes would be undue burden on the vending machine industry, according to the Bush administration. [AP]


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Bush is a compassionate conservative.

Don't vote for conservatives.

Currency exchange is but one part of the on-going story of disabled access to the economy.

The vending industry is such an inconsequential reason to block civil rights for disabled people. That measures how far disabled rights has to go in terms of rights. In other words barriers like Bush's defense of vending machine can stop action because the political means are lacking to achieve such goals.

I think it then likely the strong reason for keeping a large pool of people out of the economy is the pool itself serves a purpose related to keeping the economy running as it does.

In that sense the tissue of the vending industry is really the iron laws of cheap labor that works by exclusionary hurdles of all sorts. We need a labor movement to get some progress changing that problem.

Well... are they? An undue burden, I mean? Will current hardware (possibly reprogrammed) accept perforated bills?

Look, the vending machines are going to have to change over to recognize the new dollar coins anyways. Would the dollar sensors even pay attention to little holes signifying the Braille for "twenty"?

I'll bet it's the bill size issue more than the perforations. The addition of bills of substantially different sizes adds a greater risk of machine breakdown from slippage of the bill if the slot has to recalibrate for an even "feed", or adds to the bulk of the machines if multiple slots are required. Plus that would probably necessitate a more complex bill receptacle with multiple size "racks" for removal.

The industry position sounds more understandible if you ask it this way: how many ATMs and public transit ticket machines will need to be reconfigured within the 5 boroughs of New York, and what fee hike at the ATM and at the subway token machine will be needed to make the change revenue neutral? I still favor the changes, but they will have a cost.

See thar? That's the problem with yew communist liberal Demmycrats... puttin' the needs of crippled folk what oughta stay home anyway ahead of the needs of the business community. If a few blind bats gets $5 back in change when they shoulda got $50, that's THEY problem. Let 'em come up with Seeing Eye Dorgs what can count CHANGE and leave the MONEY ALONE, dammit!

Peopple are more important than corporations. Corporations only have a value so far as they employ people and provide products. Anyone who loses sight of this fact isn't worth listening to,

My extremely vague recollection is that the vending machine companies' "requirements" are the reason the more recent dollar coins are only slightly larger and thicker than quarters and aren't much used. (I'm a cartwheel fan, myself.)

Given the wear and tear on paper currency (are people washing cars with fifties or what?), perhaps a combination of machine-reader-sensitive technology and perforations/embossing (on the manufacturing side) or the ever-popular microcheep emitting the denomination of the bill when a heat-sensor detects that someone is touching the money might be good for at least six days after manufacture.

Or we could go back to doubloons and florins.

Let's not ignore the fact that the argument is bullshit anyway. I'm living over in Europe right now, and they seem to have plenty of vending machines. Granted, they also use 1 and 2 Euro coins, which negates the need for machines to take bills so much, but my point is that vending machine manufacturers already make machines that handle a variety of currency sizes. This isn't even a pretend hardship. Not to mention the fact that everyone seemed to *adjust* just fine when multiple currencies (of varying sizes and consistencies) all switched to the euro five years ago. Gah.

I am seriously starting to think that Bush & CO are satanic. For all their religious bluster, they manage to do, sometimes subtly, exactly the opposite of what the Bible says. But now they are getting pretty explicit about it, nu?

It seems to me that "do not place a stumbling block before the blind" is far more important, if less exciting to some, than any commandment that may or may not involve teh hot gay sex. Next thing you know Bush & CO will literally be insulting deaf people, eh?

--Look, the vending machines are going to have to change over to recognize the new dollar coins anyways--

I think that a high percentage of vending machines have been modified already and do take the dollar coins

The problem is that the dollar coins have not been popular. The Susan B Anthony dollar was a flop, because it looked like a quarter and was of a similar size. The gold dollar coin has the same size problem and the gold tarnishes so that it looks crummy after some use. People just don't like them.

I'd recommend that the govt rapidly discontinue the printing of any one or five dollar paper bills. Its just stupid to have this as paper currency. I think that Canada and the UK and Continental Europe got rid of similar denomination bills some years back.

Having coins instead of bills for low value currency would save money in and of itself (coins cost more but last far longer) and would mitigate the need for differently sized paper currency.

If you think that there is no large cost to convert every ATM and vending machine to accomodate differently sized paper money, I bet you're wrong.

Switch to well-designed coins for $1, $5, and maybe even $10 and perhaps none of the $20 and greater paper currency would even need to be tampered with.

( I use $1 coins. The only place where you get them on a regular basis --as change in Post Office vending machines )

I love the dollar coins. if you don't want yours, send them to me....

I love the dollar coins. if you don't want yours, send them to me....

Its just you and me. But the key is not to just keep them in a drawer. You gotta use them! And I am the one person in the US that does use them. Ask my newspaper vendor!

I still do not understand the problem with dollar coins. Living in Canada, I have lived through the transition from dollar bills to coin, 2 dollar bill to coin and the only problem is the transition period. Simply put, when you put in the coin, stop making the bill. Two years and everyone is using the coin because the bills in circulation are simply too beat up to be usable.
As for the vending machine companies, they all whine for awhile but they adjust. Many have put in card readers for areas that get alot of repeat usage. You refill the card with cash or a credit card from a kiosk as needed and you are good to go.

I've always wondered why there is braille on drive-thru ATMs.

Considering Diebold manufactures and owns thousands of ATMs in this country, don't expect the new money to be dispensed correctly.

I don't understand why there is braille on many things...including on direction signs in the subway. How in God's name would a blind person find it?

I guess that a nearly blind person or someone who has been going blind gradually might still see well enough to know where to find the braille sign, but I would think that this type of braille signage would have a cost benefit of negative zero. Never saw anyone "reading" the things, anywhere in the world.

Cards are an interesting solution too. I certainly use a lot less cash than I once did, and almost no checks. Credit cards are a very good thing. (when you pay them in full at all times)

I heard this on NPR this morning, and it just basically seems like a new level of heartlessness for an already astonishingly cruel administration. Can you imagine depending on STRANGERS to know if you're handing someone a $1 or $20 bill? Talk about vulnerable.

I've always wondered why there is braille on drive-thru ATMs.

Just because blind people don't drive doesn't mean that they don't ride in cars and make use of drive-through public accommodations. Should a blind person riding in a taxi be forced to give her card and PIN to the cab driver if she needs money from an ATM?

Obviously, there will be some costs, and we know that capitalists will pass those on to us consumers. But really, so what? If I was confident that an extra cent per transaction at the ATM per transaction would enable that machine to dispense bills accessible to the blind, well great. Take my extra cent. I mean, how many cents per transaction would it take for all ATMs to fund their own replacements, over, say 18 months? Besides, not like there's a law that says that every ATM has to dispense every bill in circulation. Most only do $20s and $50s, some only $20s. ATMs that dispense $10s in NYC are so rare that "Time Out New York" publishes a list of said stations so that people with between $10-$19.99 to their names can still withdraw something. (Don't knock the service. It comes in handy. Especially if you used all your cash paying off your credit card, which you used to avoid carrying cash...)

The fundamental point is that the currency serves the people--blind people included. It's not like blind people don't vote, pay taxes, own businesses, etc. Our money is a token-system technology that should be accessible, just like public buildings.

Vending machine operators are competing for our money. It's their responsibility to configure their friggin' machines so that they can take our nation's currency.

It's not our responsibility to coddle their outdated technology.

They know that if they don't set up their machines right, we'll just buy our sodas at the corner store, or go without. If they can't change with the times, so to speak, screw 'em.

Yes! Change the bills, dump the $1 bill, and DITCH THE FREAKIN PENNY!

Is it just the ATMs in my area that hand out 10-dollar bills on a regular basis, then?

If there's a real problem with minting large loonies, pardon the Canadianism, then the US can make the coins bimetallic like the Canadian toonie, or indent them in a unique way as with the Eurozone's 20ยข coin.

Or the US can just adopt the Euro. Hopefully that will also involve a central bank merger that'll usher in a charter that's less brain-dead than the current one.

Vending machine operators are competing for our money. It's their responsibility to configure their friggin' machines so that they can take our nation's currency.

You're missing the point. It's not about what's good or isn't good for the vending machine industry. Ultimately, we're the ones who pay their bills, so anything that creates unnecessary work for them hurts all of us.

This is a problem that can be solved two ways. One is for all of us to adapt our conventions to the needs of the blind. The other is for the blind to adapt to our conventions.

There's no moral imperative to solve it one way or another. The guiding principle is that we should try to find the most efficient solution. With some things, it's easy for us to adapt, but hard for the blind to adapt. With other things, the reverse is true.

As mentioned in the article, there are portable devices that allow the blind to distinguish between different bills. There are also non-cash alternatives, which I have no problem using pretty much exclusively. A generation ago, before we had these technologies, it would have been different, but now I don't see that this imposes any serious hardship on the blind, and the government could probably buy these devices for every blind person in the country for less than it would cost to transition to different-sized bills.

You can argue that I'm overestimating the cost of reconfiguring vending machines and/or underestimating the burden our currency imposes on the blind. And you may well be right. But to be worth anything, your argument has to be based on cost-benefit analysis. Knee-jerk self-righteousness and inflammatory rhetoric are vastly inferior substitutes.


Amen! Though it's just that we need neat decimalization. We need "1" to be the smallest unit of whatever it is.

I still miss the LSD--240 pence to the pound. When I was in England as a tiny guy, we were raised on stories with "tuppenny bits and thruppenny bits," only to have them phased out soon.

>I think that Canada and the UK and Continental Europe got rid of similar denomination bills some years back.

Boy, in Canada, as in Britain, I always ended up with so many loonies/toonies/sovereigns that I could hardly walk. I'd have this huge bulge in my pocket (no jokes please). I don't want my pants turned into a swinging blackjack!

I really miss the five-pound note of a couple of decades back, where the Queen was wearing the cool black sash.

But aren't we missing the real point? And that is that no vending machine EVER takes your paper money, ever. Right? Ever. The other day before class, I went to four different machines. Into each one, I fed three different five-dollar bills. They had no folds whatsoever in them. If I had dropped these five-dollar bills in front of any one of you, you'd have stooped, snatched, and said "yahoo!" But the machines? NO! Except the fourth one. Apparently Doctor Who had stopped by and done something to activate it.


Lindsay -

Thanks for posting this article! This is obviously relevant to my job as a dog guide instructor. I am a member of a forum over at Yahoo Groups and I just started a thread about this.

You'd be amazed how many different methods my students have for recognizing the different bills of currency. Some of it looks like Origami!

It's an understatement to say that I'm no fan of the Bush administration, so I tend not to believe their "analyses". WMD, anyone?


P.S. My co-workers still have to get back to me about the photo shoot! Eveyone's spending their dough on the holidays, apparently...

1984- I found a solution to too many toonies and loonies, spend them. My husband used to have a problem with change, he would get the big bills from the bank, use them for everything, get more big bills and so on. Eventually he would complain bout how little he got with his money. I would make him count the change in his pockets, he now actually uses change for small purchases instead of $20s.
It works with pennies as well, if you use the pennies that you have to round off your change then you stop getting pennies. It is amazing how easy it is to offload a pocketful of change.

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