[vendtalk] New Money

Vandervoorts vandervoorts at sbcglobal.net
Mon Feb 2 05:32:19 UTC 2009

I enjoy the intellectual discussion on US currency change and I think it is
a good subject to discuss in this forum since it affects all blind vendors.

I have just returned home having spent time at the NFB HQ this weekend.
While there for other reasons, the subject of currency changes did come up.
I left with a much clearer understanding, at least in my own mind.  Here are
some things I found out, knew, or have participated in over the last 7
months or so - 

1. Charlie Richardson is right, and others, too, that currency change is not
the biggest problem facing the blind, and probably not in the top 20, or 50.
It would have been better if the government had spent the money and time on
solving any number of other problems that face the blind.

2.  No one wants to make expensive changes in their vending business right
now that would divert resources and capital away from immediate income-
producing and customer satisfaction needs, especially when currency change
is not so urgent and the benefit not so necessary for life to continue.

3.  As others stated, the US Treasury Department did not try to appeal the
decision to the Supreme Court, and, so, change will come - someday, somehow.
Since it was a court-ordered change, there is no option for the government
other than to do something.  The court probably will make the decision as to
whether the proposed change satisfies its order. 

4.  It is better for us to provide inputs (via the NFB or even directly to
the Bureau of Engraving) into the evaluation and decision making process at
this point so we do have a voice in whatever happens to us all.  (I do not
know if they have concluded anything yet.  I have not heard that they have
proposed any solution or even performed any field trials.  If anyone knows,
I would love to learn about it.)

5.  Beginning at the NFB National Convention, Mary and I, as did some
others, provided inputs to the Bureau of Engraving via various evaluations
including with foreign currency, manual dexterity testing, eye testing,
varied discussions, and surveys.  They had said they wanted to see what
works, with whom, and why, and to include as many people and eye problems as
possible. We were evaluated separately (not jointly) with separate
follow-ups. The effort was spread over a number of months.  

Here is some feedback on what we did and heard:

a. Almost every foreign currency that has included blind needs has been
extensively investigated as a potential for use in the US, which has its own
requirements and needs, particularly with high tech devices of every type.
We were tested with a variety of different, existing currencies including
Canadian, Australian, British, the Euro, Swiss, and others.  We were also
tested with some new, potential solutions.

b. The legal requirements seem to include the needs of low-vision through
totally blind populations.  That spans the whole spectrum of those with
every eye condition and capability and disability, not just for the totally

c. The Bureau is extremely mindful of all of the needs for currency users
and handling - whether used in retail transactions, commercial business,
private transactions, entertainment venues & casinos, ATM's and vending
machines, bill changers, processing by high volume currency handling
businesses, issues raised by equipment makers, the Bureau's own currency
printing processes and papers, concerns about all types of storage,
counting, and on and on. 

d. Rarely, has the Bureau ever faced such a monumental challenge of
effecting some change with the least amount of intrusion, change, and costs
to such a wide spectrum of stakeholders and users.  It is a really tough nut
to address and solve some people's needs without adversely affecting someone
else's.  They would like to make everyone happy with one solution but doubt
that will happen.

e. We were lead to believe, that with whatever change is implemented, it
will include multiple strategies to insure the broadest ability to be
recognized by as many people as possible, regardless of the medical
condition or ability.  So, any bill will contain at least one very large
denomination number; there will be high contrast features and probably use
different colors; the bills will have a different look between denominations
(so if a sighted person, you do not have to be able to read or read English
to know what it is); there will be the ability for the totally blind to
recognize the denomination and the bill's orientation, and the bill will
contain multiple anti-counterfeit measures.

f. The Bureau has looked into multiple solutions for cheap currency
detectors and the associated changes needed in currency that would allow
really cheap devices, as well as the related economics and problems relating
to counterfeiting the new bills.  Existing currency does not lend itself to
really cheap detectors that could be given away and still work reliably.

g. They are highly concerned about the rate of change-over in the currency
and the cost of it all, regardless of which final solution is approved.
They are also concerned about the longevity or life of any new currency

h. Congress has stated that their will be currency - that the US will not go
to an all electronic money environment. So, paper of some sort is here to
stay for a long time.  And yes, they have done a lot of looking at plastic
papers used by some other countries, and embedding "chips or tags' in them,
also.  They have looked at ideas about corner cuts, holes, raised dots
(Braille coded and non-Braille coded), and so on.  If you have an idea, why
not forward it on to them?

i. FYI - American currency has changed in design, size, and color over the
years, but not since high tech devices have been around.  Currency has been
phased out, and in, before, even in my own lifetime.  (Some of you are
obviously older than others - ha!  I am old enough to have witnessed the
change in the American flag to accommodate two new states and the changes in
the Pledge of Allegiance.)

In conclusion, there will be some change, one day or another.  

And yes, I bet there will be some who will welcome and embrace the change,
some will curse it, some will not care one way or the other, but the
currency will change, nonetheless.  I just hope we, as vendors, can afford
it. With any change, I hope there is some positive way we can exploit the
change to improve our businesses.  In any event, I do hope whatever change
there is, that all those who are low vision or visually impaired and the
blind, will all find their lives changed for the better, at least in some
small way. 

Mike Vandervoort

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