Providing Meaningful Access to U.S. Currency

A photo of Rosie Rios, the Treasurer of the United States

By Guest Blogger Rosie Rios, Treasurer of the United States

Federal Reserve notes, better known in commerce as U.S. currency, paper money or bills, are the same size and weight regardless of denomination. Because there is no tactile difference between a $5 and $20 bill, for example, individuals who are blind or visually impaired may experience difficulties denominating Federal Reserve notes.

The Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) is working to change that and is taking a number of steps to provide meaningful access to U.S. currency for people who are blind or visually impaired. Changes to U.S. currency are planned, but the process for redesigning Federal Reserve notes is complex and time intensive, and notes with new features are not expected to be in circulation before 2020. To offer more immediate remedies, the BEP has turned to a number of technological solutions.

In January 2015, the BEP launched its U.S. Currency Reader Program nationwide. The program is providing a free currency reader device to all U.S. citizens or legal residents who are blind or visually impaired. The currency reader is a small, compact, hand-held device – about the size of a credit card and about one-half inch thick. It runs on one AAA battery, which is included. To use the currency reader, one simply inserts a U.S. bill into the reader and presses a button. The device quickly identifies the note’s denomination in one of three ways: a clear natural voice, a pattern of tones or a pattern of vibrations for privacy. The vibration mode assists people who are deaf and blind. The currency reader identifies all U.S. currency in circulation, including $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.

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Brush and Spit! Helping Kids with Special Needs Keep Their Pearly Whites Smile-Ready

Elijah Tschetter, 5, smiles before he’s examined at the Ready, Set, Smile clinic

By Guest Blogger Dr. Robert Rada, Illinois Dentist and American Dental Association Member

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, yet many people fail to understand why dental health is so important for children.

Tooth decay is the most common, chronic childhood disease in the U.S. In fact, it’s five times more common than asthma. It causes kids to miss 51 million school hours and their parents to lose 25 million work hours annually. It also impacts children’s self-esteem, concentration and social development, so dental disease should not be ignored.

The good news is that simple things, like brushing your children’s teeth for two minutes twice a day and visiting your dentist regularly, can help greatly decrease the risk of painful cavities and other dental disease.

In children with special health care needs, regular brushing is also critical to help ease the effects that some medication may have on their dental health. Always supervise children while brushing to make sure they are using the right amount of toothpaste (and that they spit it out when done). Help them brush and make sure they’re not doing it too hard. To learn more about the right amount of fluoride toothpaste to use, visit MouthHealthy.org and read the section called, “Cleaning Your Child’s Teeth.” You can also watch this video to “brush up” on how to brush.

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Age with Attitude: Using Social Media to Have a Voice

Barbara Aria, Senior Planet

By Guest Blogger Barbara Aria, Director of SeniorPlanet.org

A couple of months ago, Liz Jackson asked herself why she couldn’t buy a stylish cane from one of her favorite fashion outlets – a store like J. Crew that prides itself on its design sense. How come the only place that sells a must-have accessory for millions of people with disabilities can only be found in a drab, clinical setting crammed with putty-colored plastic?

So Jackson, also known as “The Girl with the Purple Cane,” went online and created a petition. Her goal: Get 10,000 signatures in support of inclusivity in fashion and deliver that petition to J. Crew. Using the hashtag #YesJCrewCane, she promoted her petition on social media, primarily Twitter and on her own blog. Within weeks, Jackson had met her goal. She’d also been widely featured in the media (including on Buzzfeed, which millions of people read), thereby spreading her bold message and giving much-needed visibility to everyone who lives with a disability.

At Senior Planet, a site for older people that promotes the use of digital technology to defy stereotypes and “age with attitude,” we named “The Girl with the Purple Cane” our role model of the week. No matter that she is 31 and we are at least twice her age, Jackson showed seniors – those of us with and without disabilities – how to have a voice online and use that voice to make demands of a culture that marginalizes us.

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Flu Fighting Facts: Stay Healthy This Flu Season

A photo of Dr. Michael Jhung

A Guest Blog by Dr. Michael Jhung, a Medical Officer and Flu Expert with CDC’s Influenza Division and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Flu Team

Flu activity is currently high in the United States and is expected to continue into the coming weeks. Flu infects millions of people every flu season and causes an estimated 200,000-plus people each year to be hospitalized.

CDC wants to reduce your chances of getting sick – and if you do get the flu, we want you to know when to seek medical care. We interviewed Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer and flu expert with CDC’s Influenza Division. Dr. Jhung shares tips for preventing flu, explains why treatment for flu is especially important this season for some people, and provides insight into some of the ways CDC helps protect you from flu. 

What sort of flu season are we having?

The timing and severity of flu seasons vary considerably, so it’s not possible to say at this point what the rest of this flu season will be like. Flu activity so far this season has been similar to the 2012-2013 flu season, a “moderately severe” flu season with H3N2 viruses predominating. Reports of flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths are elevated.

H3N2-predominant seasons have been associated with more severe illness and mortality, especially in older people and young children, relative to seasons during which H1N1 or B viruses predominated.

Compounding the potential for a severe season this year is the fact that about two-thirds of the H3N2 viruses circulating are different from the H3N2 vaccine virus; meaning that the vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses is reduced. 

How do flu viruses spread?

Flu is typically spread by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching his or her own mouth, eyes or nose.  Read More about Flu Fighting Facts: Stay Healthy This Flu Season


Are You “Aware” Tomorrow Is EITC Awareness Day?

A photo of a gentleman helping another man complete his taxes.

A Guest Blog by the MyFreeTaxes Partnership

The 2015 tax season is in full swing! Taxpayers with and without disabilities are preparing to file their taxes in anticipation for what is often the largest cash payment many receive all year: their tax refund.

Unfortunately, many taxpayers do not realize they may qualify for an even larger tax refund by claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC; worse, many miss out on a refund altogether, fearing that filing their taxes and claiming the credit may lead to an additional tax burden — an all too common misconception.

Tomorrow (January 30th) is EITC Awareness Day, and if you worked last year, you may be eligible for EITC and may be missing out on the opportunity to get more of your money back from the IRS! If you didn’t know about the EITC, you’re not alone. Currently, one in five Americans who are eligible for EITC are unaware they qualify and do not claim it.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, you may be asking: what is the EITC? According to the IRS, the tax credit is “a benefit for working people who have low to moderate income.” Long considered to be one of our country’s most effective anti-poverty initiatives, this year, eligible taxpayers with three or more children earning up to $46,997 ($52,427 married filing jointly) can claim the EITC and may be eligible for the maximum credit of $6,143 — a life-changing amount for many.

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