by Melanie Brunson
Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the U.S. government will make free money identifiers available to any citizen of the U.S. who cannot read regular print because of blindness or a visual impairment and who completes a required application. The good news about this program is that eligibility is no longer limited to individuals who are current patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Any citizen of the United States who meets the eligibility requirements related to reading can apply. It is unclear at the time of this writing whether non-citizens who are legal residents of the U.S. are also eligible, but until we are advised otherwise, we urge anyone who falls into this category to apply.
The disappointing news about this program concerns changes that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has made to the application process. In order to receive a currency reader under this program, individuals who are blind or have visual impairments that prevent them from reading regular print must complete an application that is in regular print. There are two ways to obtain a copy of the application. It is available from either of two web sites: www.moneyfactory.gov/uscurrencyreaderform.html or www.loc.gov/nls/other/currencyreader/index.html From either site, you can print a copy of the application. It can then be filled out, signed, and mailed to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Applications can also be obtained by calling a call center that the BEP has set up to handle telephone requests for applications. The phone number to call is 1-844-815-9388. Applications will be sent by mail, with instructions about where to mail them when they are completed.
The application includes a certification requirement — that the applicant has a disability that prevents him or her from reading regular print. Individuals who are registered with NLS can check a box indicating that they are current users of this service and are not required to provide any further certification. Other people will need to follow the instructions regarding obtaining certification from a qualified professional.
Once applications are submitted, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will review them and send those that are deemed eligible to the National Library Service, which will continue to be responsible for sending out the money identifiers to individuals who qualify to receive them.
Finally, here’s a bit of information for any of you who either already have or will receive a money identifier in the future. There have been reports that some people have received money identifiers that were defective. Anyone who receives a unit that does not work properly should contact the BEP call center at 1-844-815-9388.
Please let us know if you have questions or comments about this program. We will continue to keep you informed of any further developments regarding the distribution of money identifiers, as well as the longer term goal of obtaining currency that is identifiable without the aid of such devices or other assistance.