Federal Judge Decides for ACB

American Council of the Blind
1155 15th Street NW,
Suite 1004,
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 467-5081 (800) 424-8666
Fax: (202) 467-5085

Dr. Ronald E. Milliman, Chair, ACB Public Relations Committee

For additional information contact Melanie Brunson, ACB Executive Director, at (202) 467-5081.

For Immediate Release
November 28, 2006

Federal Judge Decides for the American Council of the Blind in Directing the United States Department of the Treasury to Begin Printing Paper Currency Which Is Accessible by Individuals Who Are Blind or Who Have Severe Vision Loss without Requiring Assistance

Judge James Robertson, in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, today issued a declaratory judgment on a motion by the plaintiff, the American Council of the Blind (ACB), finding the U.S. Department of Treasury in violation of Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act for failing to provide accessible print currency in a format usable by blind and visually impaired Americans and directing them to enter into discussions with the plaintiff to work out a currency design that will enable individuals who are blind or who have severe sight loss to be able to identify bills by touch and other accessible means. The ruling is the culmination of a lawsuit brought by the ACB in 2002 against the Department of the Treasury for violating Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.

“This is a major milestone for the blind and visually impaired of America,” said Melanie Brunson, Executive Director of the ACB, who has worked closely with the lawyer on the case. “The ability to handle a persons financial affairs INDEPENDENTLY, and in private, is an essential part of being a productive member of society.”

“This is the most significant case ever won where we have been able to force a major federal agency to act responsibly within the constraints of federal laws designed to protect our rights,” explained Christopher Gray, President of the ACB, the nation’s largest consumer based organization of blind and visually impaired individuals.

“This is a landmark decision,” said Jeffrey A. Lovitky, the attorney who represented the ACB, “and it will have a positive impact on millions of Americans.”

In issuing his ruling in AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND, Plaintiffs, v. Secretary of the Treasury, Defendant, Civil Action No. 02-0864 (JR), Judge Robertson wrote: “American Council of the Blind is a national advocacy group for the visually impaired. In this suit, the Council and a number of blind and visually impaired individuals allege that the Department of Treasury violates section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, by its repeated and continuing failures to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired people. The Council’s amended complaint seeks a declaratory judgment to that effect and an order mandating the creation and implementation of a corrective action plan.”

In reviewing the background for the issues, Judge Robertson noted that of the more than 180 nations that issue paper currency, the United States is the only nation which makes no effort to make its paper currency accessible by blind and visually impaired individuals.

The United States Department of the Treasury has 10 days to file for an appeal of the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“We expect them to appeal,” Brunson said, “but we are prepared to keep on fighting because what we seek is not only fair, it is the law.”

The American Council of the Blind was established in 1961 to advocate for the rights of blind and visually impaired Americans. Organized through more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates, the ACB has members in every state, and the District of Columbia.

(Decision is available electronically upon request.)