DALLAS – Officials unveiled the prototype of the first U.S. coin with readable Braille characters on Wednesday — 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 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 of the silver dollar 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."
"It really expresses the hopes, the dreams and the independent spirit," NFB Executive Director Mark Riccobono said of the design.
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. Braille was born in France in 1809.
A $10 surcharge will be added to each coin, with money from the coin sales going to support programs to help the blind.
The group is launching one of the largest campaigns to boost Braille literacy by doubling the number of young Braille readers by 2015. Fewer than 10 percent of blind children are learning Braille, NFB officials said.