Changing the shape of money

pete-stark.jpgRep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, today introduced the “Catherine Skivers Currency for All Act,” which would would make U.S. currency accessible to all blind and visually impaired Americans by notching paper money.

“All Americans should be able to recognize the denominations of paper currency,” Stark said in a news release. “But current bills are identical in size, which prevents millions of blind and visually impaired people from fully participating in our economy.”

Of more than 180 countries that issue their own banknotes, only the United States prints identical bills for every denomination. A federal judge found in November 2006 that the Treasury Department had violated the Rehabilitation Act by issuing paper currency that visually impaired individuals could not readily distinguish; the court ordered the government to make paper currency recognizable to the blind through the use of distinguishing tactile marks, a decision the Treasury Department is appealing.

Stark’s bill is named after Catherine Skivers of Hayward, a Stark constituent who is the California Council of the Blind‘s immediate past president and current legislative committee chairwoman. She told me today she’s thrilled to have her name on the bill, “especially on such an important issue. … We really need this currency so we know what we have. I’m just so thankful to Pete Stark for doing it.”

The bill requires the U.S. Treasury to trim the corners of all bills in a manner that prevents fraud, with lower value bills having more corners trimmed. See examples after the jump.

The bill calls for the trimming of four corners on the $1 bill, three corners on the $2 bill, two diagonal corners on the $5 bill, two corners on a long side of the $10 bill, two corners on a short side of the $20 bill, one corner on the $50 bill, and no corners on the $100 bill.


Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.