[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 97 (Thursday, May 20, 2010)]
[Pages 28331-28334]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-12091]



Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Meaningful Access to United States Currency for Blind and 
Visually Impaired Persons

AGENCY: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Department of the Treasury.

ACTION: Notice of proposed agency action and request for public 


SUMMARY: The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Bureau of 
Engraving and Printing (BEP) are issuing this Notice pursuant to the 
ruling in American Council of the Blind v. Paulson that ordered 
Treasury to provide meaningful access to U.S. currency to people who 
are blind and visually impaired pursuant to section 504 of the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. BEP seeks to develop a solution 
that fully complies with the Court's order and provides people who are 
blind and visually impaired meaningful access to U.S. currency, while 
also giving appropriate consideration to the interests of domestic and 
international users of currency, U.S. businesses, and cash handling and 
cash-intensive industries. The purposes of this Federal Register Notice 
are to inform the public of the features that BEP intends to propose to 
the Secretary of the Treasury to accommodate people who are blind and 
visually impaired in denominating U.S. currency, and to solicit public 
comment on the proposed accommodations.

DATES: Submit comments on or before August 18, 2010.

ADDRESSES: See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for meeting addresses 
and information about submitting public comments.


    By statute, the Secretary of the Treasury has sole authority for 
approving designs of U.S. Federal Reserve notes (U.S. currency). To 
develop the designs, Treasury works in collaboration with the Board of 
Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board) and the Department of 
Homeland Security's United States Secret Service (USSS), through the 
Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ACD)

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Steering Committee.\1\ As a general guideline, the ACD has recommended 
that Treasury redesign Federal Reserve notes every seven to ten years 
to deter counterfeiting by anticipating advances in technologies. The 
most recent redesign of the currency commenced in 2003, and the final 
note in that series of currency design is in production. As Treasury 
begins its design plans for a new family of currency, Treasury and BEP 
will incorporate additional features to accommodate people who are 
blind and visually impaired. Although it is somewhat difficult to 
provide a specific date or time frame as to when the redesign of this 
new family of currency will be completed, BEP is required by the 
Court's order to ``take such steps as may be required to provide 
meaningful access to United States currency for blind and other 
visually impaired persons * * * not later than the date when a redesign 
of that denomination is next approved by the Secretary of the 

    \1\ The ACD Steering Committee was established by charter in 
1982 to recommend designs to the Secretary of the Treasury for 
Federal Reserve notes. The ACD Steering Committee is chaired by the 
Treasury's Under Secretary for Domestic Finance. Its members include 
the senior representatives from the Department of the Treasury, 
Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Federal Reserve 
System, and the USSS.

    In anticipation of this endeavor, in January of 2008, BEP 
commissioned a comprehensive study to (1) review and analyze the needs 
of the blind and visually impaired relating to the identification of 
U.S. currency through focus groups, surveys, and usability tests; (2) 
examine various methods that might improve access to the currency by 
the blind and visually impaired through discussions with subject matter 
experts, foreign currency experts, and advocacy groups; (3) perform a 
cost impact analysis of possible accommodations on various government 
and industry sectors; and (4) provide a decision model, by which BEP 
could evaluate various potential accommodations. See Final Report: 
Study to Address Options for Enabling the Blind and Visually Impaired 
Community to Denominate U.S. Currency, July 2009 (Study), which can be 
found on the BEP Web site at http://www.bep.gov/uscurrency/meaningfulaccess.html.
    Although there are a wide variety of definitions and methodologies 
to define blindness and visual impairment, the Study used the following 
definitions: it defined blind individuals as those who have no useful 
vision for reading any amount of print, and visually impaired 
individuals as those who have difficulty seeing but are able to read 
some print (with or without corrective lenses).

Summary of Proposed Design Modifications

    Based upon the Study's findings and BEP's own expertise in 
manufacturing U.S. currency, BEP proposes to recommend to the Secretary 
of the Treasury the following:
    I. Tactile Feature. As part of the next currency redesign, BEP will 
develop and deploy a raised tactile feature that builds upon current 
tactile feature technologies. The tactile feature will be unique to 
each Federal Reserve note denomination that it may lawfully change, and 
will provide users with a means of identifying each denomination by way 
of touch.\2\

    \2\ The Department of the Treasury is not permitted to redesign 
the $1 note. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, Public Law 111-
8, Section 111, states that ``None of the funds appropriated in this 
Act or otherwise available to the Department of the Treasury or the 
Bureau of Engraving and Printing may be used to redesign the $1 
Federal Reserve note.'' In addition, the Court's October 3, 2008 
order explicitly excluded the $1 note and the soon to be released 
$100 note.

    II. Large, High-Contrast Numerals. Consistent with current 
practice, BEP will continue its practice of adding large, high-contrast 
numerals and different and distinct color schemes to each denomination 
that it is permitted by law to alter to further assist visually 
impaired citizens.
    III. Supplemental Currency Reader Program. BEP also proposes to 
recommend to the Secretary of the Treasury a supplemental measure that 
will be taken in order to provide access to U.S. currency. This measure 
would involve a process to loan and distribute currency readers to the 
blind and visually impaired at no cost to them. BEP believes this 
process will ameliorate difficulties stemming from the transition that 
will occur during the co-circulation of notes with and without a 
tactile feature and large, high contrast numerals, a transition which 
will persist for many years after the introduction of the tactile-
enhanced note.
    In addition, BEP will continue to explore emerging technological 
solutions to provide access to U.S. currency, such as the development 
of software to enable blind and visually impaired individuals to fully 
access U.S. currency. Some of the options include the development and 
deployment of assistive software to enable banknote denomination using 
cellular phones, computers, and imaging and reading devices.

Recommendation Details

    I. Tactile Feature: BEP will develop and incorporate a raised 
tactile feature that will accommodate people who are blind and visually 
impaired. This feature will enable blind and visually impaired 
individuals to identify currency by touching the tactile feature. The 
Study demonstrated that raised tactile features allow most blind and 
visually impaired individuals to denominate currency. Indeed, this kind 
of feature is used in some foreign currency, and the Study's data 
indicated that this feature was more effective than virtually every 
other kind of accommodation tested, including different-sized notes. 
Additionally, a raised tactile feature would not cause a major 
disruption to the general population because the notes will not appear 
substantially different from their current form.
    BEP recognizes that implementing a raised tactile feature will pose 
some challenges. First, the Study showed that current tactile 
technology wears out eventually, so the effectiveness of the feature 
diminishes over time. In addition, the Study showed that a raised 
tactile feature would impose costs on both government and industry. For 
example, some major cash handlers expressed concern over stacking, 
mechanical counting, examination, and finishing processes of notes with 
raised tactile features. The banking industry echoed the major cash 
handlers' concern of equipment malfunctions caused by jams and added 
concerns that increased jams would require higher inventory levels with 
associated increased carrying costs to ensure sufficient cash would be 
available at all times. In addition, BEP will need to put forth a 
comprehensive public education program for all users of U.S. currency 
to acquaint them with the new tactile feature.
    The selection of the raised tactile feature will require additional 
targeted research, testing, and consideration of the public comments. 
Nonetheless, the significant benefits of notes with a tactile feature, 
including the excellent accuracy results the blind and visually 
impaired achieved with them, the ease of use evidenced both by the 
usability tests and applicable scientific research, and the relatively 
minimal impact on the general U.S. population, supports the inclusion 
of a raised tactile feature as a recommended accommodation despite its 
challenges. Based on experience, independent research, and the Study, 
BEP believes it can develop a raised tactile feature that is durable 
and can be incorporated into its existing

[[Page 28333]]

manufacturing systems at a reasonable cost, coincident with the 
introduction of the next design series of U.S. currency.
    BEP invites comment on its proposal to incorporate raised tactile 
features in the next redesign of its currency.
    II. Large, High-Contrast Numerals: BEP began incorporating large, 
high-contrast numerals into Federal Reserve notes beginning with the 
Series 1996 design $50 note in October 1997. In March 2008, BEP 
increased the size of the large high contrast numeral with the 
introduction of the Series 2006 $5 note. The feedback received from 
visually impaired individuals has been positive. This feature will be 
continued in the new-design $100 note, which is the last in the Series 
2004 family of designs. Because BEP has experience printing this 
feature and the visually impaired community has provided positive 
feedback on it, BEP proposes to continue using this feature in the next 
design for U.S. currency. BEP is aware, however, that there may be a 
number of options concerning the size, color, placement, background 
contrast and other features for these large numerals that may improve 
accessibility of currency for persons with low-vision. BEP invites 
comment from the public, including persons with low-vision, about the 
best choices for the proposed large, high-contrast numerals.
    III. Supplemental Currency Reader Program: BEP will establish a 
supplemental currency reader distribution program. The purpose of the 
program is to provide blind and visually impaired people a means that 
can be used independently to correctly identify the denomination of 
U.S. currency. In compliance with legal requirements, BEP will loan a 
currency reader device to all blind and visually impaired U.S. citizens 
and legal residents, who wish to avail themselves of this program. The 
individual may borrow the reader for as long as the individual desires 
the assistance of the reader. Before a reader is distributed, BEP first 
will verify that the requestor is eligible.
    Under the reader program, individuals who are United States 
citizens or persons legally residing in the United States who are blind 
or visually impaired and who need a reader to accurately identify the 
denomination of U.S. currency will be able to obtain a reader at no 
cost to the individual. BEP will define blind or visually impaired 
under the same definition as the Study, with the following change to 
the Study's definition of visual impairment: The reader program will 
not extend to visually impaired individuals whose impairment is 
corrected with ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses.
    BEP is considering the scope of an appropriate verification 
framework to determine eligibility to receive a reader. Specifically, 
it is considering a framework inspired by the eligibility requirements 
that the Library of Congress uses when loaning library materials to 
blind and other disabled persons as set forth in 36 CFR 701.6. Under 
that framework, applicants may submit verification of their eligibility 
from a ``competent authority.'' BEP would define a ``competent 
authority as one of the following: doctors of medicine, doctors of 
osteopathy, doctors of optometry, registered nurses, and licensed 
practical nurses.
    Alternatively, if a person who is blind or visually impaired has 
verification of visual impairment from another Federal agency, 
including the Social Security Administration, the Library of Congress, 
or a State or local agency, that person need only submit a copy of that 
verification. BEP is inviting comments on whether this verification 
system is appropriate, or whether other frameworks would be more 
    Parents or legal guardians of a blind or visually impaired child 
under 18, and caregivers, legal guardians, or those with power of 
attorney for a U.S. citizen or someone legally residing in the U.S. may 
act as a proxy on behalf of the blind or visually impaired child or 
represented individual and request a currency reader. BEP will require 
verification for the child or represented individual.
    BEP will solicit and award a single, long-term contract to 
implement the currency reader program. The contractor will be 
designated as the Currency Reader Program Coordinator (CRPC). Once the 
program is operational, a potentially eligible person may request a 
currency reader by contacting the CRPC and completing and submitting a 
request form. Depending on the verification framework adopted, upon 
verification of eligibility, the person will be provided a reader. If 
an individual believes that the CRPC erroneously denied him or her a 
reader, the individual may appeal the decision to the appropriate 
authority at BEP, who will be designated after BEP awards the CRPC 
    Except for the postage to mail application forms to the CRPC, the 
user should not have to expend any funds for the reader. Any fees for 
shipping and the initial battery will be borne by the provider. Readers 
will be delivered by mail. There will be a ``one reader per verified 
eligible person'' limit. Though there is a ``one reader'' limit, an 
eligible individual may receive a replacement reader from the CRPC upon 
request if the circumstances, such as a lost, damaged, or obsolete 
reader, are reasonable and warrant replacement.
    The CRPC will also establish a selection of approved reader 
suppliers. BEP anticipates that more than one reader supplier may be 
authorized by the CRPC to provide readers and will seek to keep costs 
low by requiring suppliers to meet the lowest price in order to be a 
program participant. The CRPC shall:
    1. Be responsible for overall implementation and operation of the 
program pursuant to a government contract;
    2. Have the program operational within six months after contract 
    3. Communicate with eligible persons via mail, Braille, e-mail, 
phone, fax, TTY, and Web site;
    4. Maintain a help desk for a minimum of ten hours a day, five days 
a week;
    5. Be able quickly to scale up or down staffing resources to react 
to demand on the program;
    6. Accept requests for readers;
    7. Verify eligibility, using the appropriate criteria;
    8. Within three weeks of receiving a request, either provide a 
reader to a requester deemed eligible or inform said person that he or 
she does not meet the eligibility criteria;
    9. Establish a formal CRPC Authorized Supplier Program, with 
documented contractual controls and agreements between the CRPC and 
each supplier;
    10. Monitor each supplier's operation;
    11. Certify each supplier's reader products;
    12. Publicize a list of approved suppliers and products;
    13. Establish payment mechanisms for authorized suppliers;
    14. Evaluate and possibly add new reader suppliers as they enter 
the market;
    15. Suspend reader suppliers if they fail to perform;
    16. Establish internal controls to assist BEP in preventing fraud, 
waste, and abuse; and obtain an annual independently verified SAS-70 
Report (Type II) of those controls;
    17. Maintain a database of each person who requested a reader, was 
issued a reader, or was denied a reader, and for readers issued, which 
reader (including its serial number) was issued to which person;
    18. Implement privacy controls; and
    19. Ensure that all CRPC Authorized Suppliers are able and 
contractually obligated to:

[[Page 28334]]

    a. Provide a reader that quickly and accurately denominates U.S. 
    b. Interact with verified eligible persons via mail, Braille, e-
mail, phone, fax, TTY, and Web site;
    c. Provide readers directly to verified eligible persons if 
    d. Provide accessible instructional materials on how to use the 
    e. Provide readers that use a non-proprietary battery;
    f. Provide readers with unique serial numbers for accountability;
    g. Provide at least a one-year parts and labor warranty on each 
    h. Provide free return postage for malfunctioning readers and for 
warranty service; and
    i. Recognize that the selection of a reader is based on the free 
market and personal choice and that there is no minimum quantity of 
readers that the government guarantees from any supplier.
    BEP will assess the structure of this program on a continuing basis 
and implement changes as needed to enhance its effectiveness or 


    The Board pays BEP for its currency-related expenses, which are 
primarily the costs of producing new currency. BEP's costs associated 
with incorporating the proposed tactile and large, high-contrast 
numeral features would be funded by the Board, as are the costs of 
other design elements for U.S. currency. BEP plans also to charge the 
Board for the costs associated with the proposed currency readers. 
Because the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia determined 
that BEP is required by the Rehabilitation Act to provide meaningful 
access to U.S. currency, BEP believes these costs represent a necessary 
expense that may be appropriately charged to the Board.

Questions for Comment

    Treasury welcomes all comments and suggestions regarding the 
proposed solutions. Treasury is particularly interested, however, in 
comments on the specific questions set forth below:
    1. What would be the ideal placement of the raised tactile feature? 
In what kind of pattern or patterns should the raised tactile feature 
be arranged?
    2. How should the large, high contrast numerals be incorporated? In 
other words, what colors should BEP use, what is the optimal size of 
the numerals, and where should the numerals be placed on the note?
    3. What background colors would provide the highest color contrast 
for people who are visually impaired?
    4. What technological solutions should BEP explore to help people 
who are blind and visually impaired denominate currency?
    5. What is the nature of the burden, if any, on the general public 
of including a raised tactile feature on U.S. currency?
    6. If there are any burdens imposed on the public by a raised 
tactile feature on currency, how can such burdens be minimized?
    7. What is the nature of the burden, if any, on industry and 
business of including a raised tactile feature on U.S. currency?
    8. If there are such burdens, how can they be minimized?
    9. Does the supplemental currency reader program impose a burden on 
the blind and visually impaired?
    10. If so, what are those burdens, and how can they be minimized?
    11. Does a verification process of the currency reader program 
inspired by the Library of Congress process impose too a great a burden 
on the blind and visually impaired?
    12. If so, what are those burdens, and how can they be minimized?
    13. Alternatively, if a person who is blind or visually impaired 
has verification of visual impairment from another Federal agency (such 
as the Social Security Administration or Library of Congress), or a 
State or local agency, should BEP allow that person to submit a copy of 
that verification in order to satisfy a proof of visual impairment 
requirement in order to obtain a currency reader? If so, what burdens 
might this impose, and how can those burdens be minimized?
    14. Should BEP consider working with local governments and/or State 
agencies to deliver the currency readers?
    15. Should BEP consider additional or different criteria when 
determining eligibility for the currency reader program?
    16. What administrative and/or operational challenges does the 
currency reader program create?

Electronic Submission of Comments, Electronic Access and Mailing 

    Regulations.gov offers the public the ability to comment on, 
search, and view publicly available rulemaking materials, including 
comments received on rules. Follow the on-line instructions for 
submitting comments. You may also e-mail electronic comments to 
[email protected]. You may fax comments to 202-874-1212. Please 
mail any written comments to Meaningful Access, Bureau of Engraving and 
Printing, Office of External Relations, 14th and C Streets, SW., Room 
530-1M, Washington, DC 20228.
    In general, comments received will be published on Regulations.gov 
without change, including any business or personal information 
provided. Comments received, including attachments and other supporting 
materials, are part of the public record and subject to public 
disclosure. Do not enclose any information in your comment or 
supporting materials that you consider confidential or inappropriate 
for public disclosure.
    You may also inspect and copy comments at: Treasury Department 
Library, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) collection, Room 1428, Main 
Treasury Building, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20220. 
Before visiting, you must call (202) 622-0990 for an appointment.

Public Forum

    BEP will host two open public forums simultaneously on June 22, 
2010. One will be held at the Eastern Currency Facility (14th and C 
Streets, SW., Washington, DC 20228) and the other at the Western 
Currency Facility (9000 Blue Mound Road, Ft. Worth, TX 76131). BEP 
representatives will be available to discuss the proposed 
accommodations for meaningful access and to hear public comment. 
Registration to attend the public forum (at either the Washington, DC 
or Fort Worth, TX facility) must be made by calling (877) 874-4114. 
Because the BEP is a secure Federal installation, all attendees must 
pre-register for the public forum by providing their name and are 
subject to magnetometer inspection and their bags are subject to x-ray 
prior to entering and upon exiting the facility. To ensure your access, 
please notify BEP of your intent to attend by 5 p.m., EDT on June 18, 

Larry R. Felix,
[FR Doc. 2010-12091 Filed 5-19-10; 8:45 am]