MADISON, Wis. (3/15/10)--Credit unions could be impacted by proposed changes to U.S. currency that would make denominations easier to read for the visually impaired. The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing is working to redesign banknotes after the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia in 2008 upheld a 2006 lower court ruling that the federal government violated the U.S. Rehabilitation Act by not providing meaningful access to banknotes for the blind and visually impaired (Payments Source March 9). The Treasury is proceeding to redesign currency and will soon seek comment on the proposed designs. The comment period is expected to last about 90 days, said James Hanisch, executive vice president of CO-OP Financial Services in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., a credit union service organization. Currency size could change, or the size could remain the same with the inclusion of a Braille feature. The inclusion of a Braille feature could have a modest impact. If the size is changed, it could have a “fairly material impact,” Hanisch told News Now. Depending on which design the Treasury proposes and what denominations will be affected, the changes could be a “fairly expensive proposition” for credit unions. The $20 bill is the most commonly dispensed at ATMs, and its change would have the largest impact. The $1 bill will be exempt, and the $100 bill will be grandfathered in the next redesign, Hanisch said. Changes in currency sizes could mean adjustments to cash drawers, vaults, and ATM canisters and dispensers. ATM manufacturers already have the capabilities to change the machines, since many countries have already adjusted their currency sizes for the visually impaired, he added. The technology in Diebold’s ATMs, which include the Opteva and the IX, is designed to support global currencies, Rebekah Smith, Diebold spokesperson, told News Now. The ATMs also are equipped to handle currencies of different sizes, materials and thickness. “Diebold is confident in the design of its ATMs,” she said in regards to the proposed changes. Diebold is a CUNA Strategic Services provider. Currency changes could cost $3,000 to $5,000 per ATM, depending on the denomination. CO-OP offers about 28,000 ATMs, Hanisch said. At minimum, the changes are a year a way. “It’s just starting to sink in how significant this could possibly be,” Hanisch said.