Mint unveils design for first U.S. coin readable in Braille

Officials on Wednesday unveiled the prototype of the first U.S. coin with readable Braille characters – a silver dollar commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the creator of the alphabet for the blind.

The coin's display opened the National Federation of the Blind's annual convention in Dallas.

“This is going to put Braille in front of people in a very dramatic way,” said Chris Danielson, a federation spokesman.

U.S. Mint director Ed Moy, federation president Marc Maurer and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, revealed the design of the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar in front of about 1,000 people at an outdoor plaza.

The heads side depicts Louis Braille with the word “Liberty” above it.

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. Behind him is a bookshelf bearing the word “Independence.”

While all coins distributed by the U.S. Mint are distinguishable to the blind by their size and weight, the Braille silver dollar is the first to have Braille characters that can be read, Moy said.

The commemorative 1-ounce coin will be available in spring 2009, the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth. The U.S. Mint will produce 400,000 of the coins. A $10 surcharge will be added to each coin, with money from the coin sales going to support programs to help the blind.