The Federal Register has published for public comment changes to United States Federal Reserve Notes — U.S. paper currency — to make them accessible to the blind and the visually impaired, knowing that the alterations will financially affect some ATM, kiosk and self-checkout owners and operators.
"The purpose of this Federal Register notice is to inform the public of the features the Bureau of Engraving and Printing intends to propose to the Secretary of the Treasury to accommodate people who are blind and visually impaired and to solicit public comment on the proposed accommodation," the Federal Register wrote in the proposal titled, "Meaningful Access To United States Currency for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons."
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which prints Federal Reserve Notes, is proposing as part of the design a tactile feature that will be unique to every banknote, enabling users to identify each denomination through touch. The government agency also will continue with its current practice of adding high-contrast numerals and different and distinct color schemes to each denomination to assist the visually impaired.
In addition, the government agency proposes to loan and distribute currency readers to the blind and visually impaired. The reader would ameliorate difficulties stemming from the transition during the co-circulation of notes with and without a tactile feature and large, high-contrast numerals. "The transition will continue for many years, following introduction of tactile-enhanced note," the Bureau of Engraving and Printing said.
The bureau supports tactile features on currency, although some ATM industry officials have complained they may cause ATMs to jam or malfunction. The executives also claim tactile bumps will reduce the amount of currency ATM operators could deposit in the machines' cassettes; therefore, they would have to keep a higher inventory of funds to ensure that a sufficient amount of cash is available at all times. Storing additional cash could be expensive, depending on how much in interest the lender charges ATM operators.
Cardtronics Inc., a Houston-based independent sales organization, wrote in its annual report to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that the company and others would be forced to upgrade their machines' hardware and software, depending on how the Treasury proceeds. Cardtronics did not say how much it might have to spend upgrading its U.S.-owned machines. Cardtronics owns or manages 33,700 ATMs in the U.S., United Kingdom, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The Federal Reserve Notes with tactile features could pose a problem for ATM independent sales organizations that operate only in the United States, Adam Sandoval, Wincor Nixdorf Inc.'s product manager-cash systems, U.S. Banking Division,ã€€told ATMmarketplace.com.
Tactile bumps, which are smaller than Braille, could affect some ATMs' ability to dispense cash, says Sandoval, who has provided written comment to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on the agency's proposed changes. The tactile features will increase each bill's thickness; therefore, reducing the number of banknotes companies can place into an ATM cassette. "There will be a slight impact," Sandoval added. Most cash machines store andã€€dispense only $20 bills.
Wincor Nixdorf AG, the Paderborn, Germany-basedã€€parent company of Wincor Nixdorf Inc.,ã€€distributes ATMs that dispenseã€€the 200 and 500 euro note, which contain tactile bumps. Wincor Nixdorf's cash dispensers are equipped with a measuring station that adjusts to each banknote's thickness, ensuring it is correctly dispensed.
Despite ATM industry opposition to tactile banknotes, the bureau will recommend them to the Treasury Department because the blind and visually impaired find them accurate and easy to use. Federal officials, however, are concerned the tactile features quickly will wear out. But they plan to develop a much more durable raised figure that can be incorporated into the current manufacturing process.
The Treasury Department will accept until Aug. 18 comments on the proposed currency changes. Once the department makes a decision regarding the banknotes and issues a prototype, Wincor Nixdorf, Diebold Inc., NCR Corp., Triton Systems and other ATM and self-service device manufacturers will test the bills in their cash dispensers and provide the Treasury with additional comment. The federal government is not expected to issue the Federal Reserve Notes for a couple of years, says David Hadesty, Wincor Nixdorf Inc.'s vice president of strategic alliances and product management.
Public comments must address placement of tactile features on banknotes and in what kind of pattern or patterns should the raised tactile features be arranged. Concerned or affected organizations can e-mail their comments to email@example.com.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is changing the design of the nation's currency to comply with U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson's November 2006 decision, ordering redesign of the banknotes.