In honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the U.S. Mint recently released a special $1 coin with a picture of Braille and his eponymous creation embossed upon it. According to an article from the Associated Press, "On the back of the coin, the Braille code for the word Braille — or 'Brl' — is inscribed, above a depiction of a school-age boy reading a Braille book with a cane resting on his arm."
Oddly enough, the coin comes with a $10 surcharge and any proceeds will go to the National Federation for the Blind. While an interesting fundraising tool, I'll admit I'm concerned the Mint will have a tough time selling a $1 coin for $11.
Even more bizarre is the idea of a coin with Braille on it all together. In one of the smarter moves by the U.S. Mint, American coins come in different sizes and sometimes with ridges on the side to help the blind accurately determine payment. If we really wanted to help blind people, why don't we focus on our paper money instead?
Since 2004, newly designed $5s, $10s, $20s and even $50s have begun a colorful circulation through wallets, cash registers and banks. The overhaul was intended to make increasingly sophisticated counterfeiting harder and perhaps it has. But why not take the opportunity to help out our blind citizens in the process?
Many other countries feature paper money of varying sizes as an aid to the visually impaired. How else do you know if you're giving someone a $20 or a $5, let alone 5 euro or 20 forint? I really believe the U.S. missed out on a great chance for an even bigger public relations moment. They say they're helping out the blind with the proceeds from this new coin, but how many collectors are really going to buy it? Everyone would be much better off if our bills were actually usable by blind people. And hell, it's easier to print braille on paper anyway!