The United States might have to redesign its money after a Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the traditional green dollar bills discriminate against the blind and visually impaired.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the 2006 lower-court ruling that using the same colour and shape on all bills makes it too difficult for people with poor vision to distinguish between values.
The latest ruling means U.S. Treasury Department may have to make bills different sizes, and include raised markings and oversized numbers on each bill. The department has not yet said if it will fight the court decision, or change its money.
The U.S. government has acknowledged that its current designs hinder the visually impaired, but argued that those with disabilities have already adapted by relying on store clerks for help, using credit cards and-or folding the corners of their bills to differentiate between them.
Canada among countries with vision-friendly bills
The three Appeals Court judges, ruling 2-1 against the government, panned this argument.
The court said using the government's logic, people could argue there's no need to build wheelchair ramps because people without use of their legs can crawl or ask for help from strangers.
The court also said the government hadn't sufficiently argued why it would be an unreasonable burden to make the changes to its paper money, considering that the Treasury Department has already redesigned its currency several times in recent years.
Adding features to aid the blind and visually impaired would come at a relatively small cost, the court said.
It noted that many other countries have already made their money more accessible.
In 2001, Canada started adding a tactile feature to its bills, placing raised dots and symbols to distinguish between denominations. The decisions were made in consultation with blind and visually impaired Canadians.
The bills also contain large, bold numbers. Bills of different values are printed in different colours.