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Published July 3, 2008

If you can read this you’re too close … and legally blind

Government officials announced today that the U.S. Mint will soon produce a new silver dollar commemorating the birth of Louis Braille who created the raised-dot alphabet for the blind.

The Braille code word for Braille – “Brl” – is inscribed on the back of the new silver dollar.

On the front the Braille inscription reads, “If they tell you this is a quarter, they’re trying to screw you.”

My brother was born blind. He had a wicked sense of humor, so I’m sure he would have appreciated the irony in the government’s new silver dollar announcement.

Blind people don’t need the government’s help in differentiating coins. They can tell the difference between a quarter and a nickel with their eyes closeder, um … by feel.

If you really want to help blind people from getting ripped off, you need to put Braille lettering on paper money. Sure, someone could punch some fake holes in a $20 bill sized piece of paper, but at least they’d have to learn Braille to do it.

There’s already been at least one court case concerning the difficulty blind people have in discriminating between different denominations of paper currency. Last November, a judge ruled that, by not making money that can be differentiated by touch, the government is discriminating against blind people.

Next up on the court docket: the landmark Stevie Wonder v. Playboy case.

The U.S. Mint has said the new dollar coins will be available in early 2009. Of the 600,000 or so legally blind people in the country, only about 10% of them currently read Braille.

So, basically, the U.S. Mint is gearing up production of a commemorative coin for about 60,000 people or about the same number of people who attend a Notre Dame football game.

Maybe we should mint a coin to commemorate the next time the Fighting Irish win a football game.

Oh, by the way, if you want to buy the new Braille coin it will cost you $11 due to a $10 surcharge to help support the National Federation for the Blind.

Man, I didn’t see that coming.

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