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Time to break the mold of paper money for the blind

April 30, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

This is a good article that describes a little of what it is like to be
blind, from the perspective of an actual blind couple

Fresno Bee, California USA
Monday, April 30, 2007

Time to break the mold of paper money for the blind

By Eddie Jimenez

04/30/07 05:46:59

Ed and Toni Eames, both blind, each have their own systems to distinguish
denominations of paper money once they've separated the bills.

Ed keeps dollar bills flat, folds $5 bills in half width-wise and $10 bills
length-wise. Toni also leaves her dollar bills flat, but folds $5 bills in
half twice width-wise and $10 bills in half, but keeps them in a different
part of her purse.

They try not to carry around anything larger than $10. That makes it easier
to keep track of their money.

"If somebody does cheat you, intentionally or unintentionally, you don't
lose a lot of money," Toni said.

The Fresno couple and other blind and visually impaired people will no
longer have to go through this exercise if Pete Stark, a Democratic
congressman from Fremont, has his way.

Stark wants all U.S. paper money to be redesigned to meet a federal court
ruling last November that said our nation's currency — being all the same
size and indistinguishable — violates the civil rights of the blind.

A judge told the Treasury Department to fix the problem, but the agency is
appealing the ruling. Treasury officials say changing U.S. paper money would
be costly.

Undeterred, Stark has suggested a less expensive remedy — cutting off the
edges of bills, for example, trimming the four corners of the $1 bill, three
corners of the $2 and so on.

That doesn't seem too practical, but one way or another, a change should be
made so the blind can tell the difference between denominations of paper
currency. As one news report said, about 180 other countries have different
sizes for paper money.

The Eameses understand that the switch would be costly and realize there are
other pressing issues for the blind, such as education, transportation,
learning Braille and getting easier access to Web sites.

Still, being able to distinguish paper money would eliminate one dependency
on others.

The couple offered examples of how the blind are overlooked in everyday
dealings that sighted people take for granted.

Listening to a Channel 18 fundraiser, the Eameses kept hearing "Call the
number on your screen," but the number was never read aloud.

So they had to phone a friend for the number before they could contribute.

They're also not able to use all the functions on their cell phone because
it's about "50% blind friendly." And their search for a new stove was
hampered because most oven functions are digital. They need a stove with
knobs to distinguish temperatures.

"Change doesn't always include the blind population," said Ed, who is the
chairman of the Fresno Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Council.
This can add to life's challenges.

"You get by," Toni said, and Ed finished, "with occasional high levels of
frustration."

They said making the switch to a new U.S. paper currency system would be
another step toward independence for the blind.

"There's no way to get around it. [Now] you do need sighted help with
bills," Toni said. "I think it's time for the government to do it."

The columnist can be reached at ejimenez @fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6386.

http://www.fresnobee.com/190/story/44769.html

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