WASHINGTON - When the next generations of $5, $10, $20, and $50 bills roll off the presses, there should be some way for blind people to tell them apart, a federal judge said yesterday.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson said he would not allow the Treasury Department to go at its own pace as it complies with a May ruling that U.S. paper money discriminates against the blind.
Treasury officials have hired a contractor to investigate ways to help the blind differentiate between bills, perhaps by printing different sizes or including raised numbers. Government attorneys urged the judge to let that process play out and not interfere with anti-counterfeiting redesigns in process.
The judge was not persuaded. "The Treasury Department is not going to just conduct this on its own schedule and its own terms. Let that be clear," he said.
He ordered U.S. attorneys to meet with the American Council of the Blind, which brought the suit, and come up with a schedule that requires changes in the next generation of bills.
The next $100 design could be printed as early as this fall; those bills won't be affected. But subsequent designs should solve the problem, the judge said.