In one of the more absurd examples of political correctness, a court has decided that money discriminates.

Unlike many countries, all American money is the same size (and up to recently the  same colour). So if you are blind, you have to ask someone what denomination is the bill. Of course, once in awhile people cheat and slip a blind person a one dollar bill instead of a five or ten that they have coming to them. And there is a special place in hell for such cheats.

But this is America, land of lawyers. So they took it to court, and the judges in their wisdome said: DISCRIMINATION.

Um, hate to tell you guys (gals?) but blindness itself is discriminatory.

And the case ignores that most people who are legally blind have a little sight. (Legal blindness is 20/200, and can see large objects; other people have partial vision that allows them to see the numbers if they hold it close).

The court ruling, if it stands, will cost society a lot of money.

From the NYTIMES estimates:

 $178 million for new printing presses, for instance, and up to $50 million for new plates…retooling or replacing the approximately seven million food-and-beverage vending machines in the country could cost $3.5 billion if bills of different size were introduced. Other parties who would be affected would be manufacturers of money-dispensing automatic teller machines and, for that matter, manufacturers of wallets and purses…

The Judges scoff at the expense, saying that Canada has put Braille on their bills. But of course elderly people don’t know Braille, so would still have problems.

I have a better idea.

For that much we could devise a portable scanner that can scan the bill and tell you out loud if the bill is a five or a ten etc. A good entrepeneur could invent and sell one for a couple dollars at RadioShack or Best Buy, or if you want, the government could simply decide to issue vouchers to buy one for free to everyone certified as blind.

In fact, there is a Nokia cellphone that does just that.

A sightless person can use the phone to snap a picture of a menu, book, printed receipt or business card. Software on the phone processes the words on those items and reads the text aloud in a synthesized voice. The device can even let a blind person know if paper currency is a $5 or a $20 bill.

The price, $ 500 for the phone and $1500 for the software, is stiff, but probably a lot cheaper than retooling a couple million vending machines. LINKis the KNFB reader…

There are other products available for the visually impaired, of course.

And, of course, using credit cards and smart cards are another alternative.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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