Australia will produce ‘tactile banknotes’ to help visually impaired people

Flickr/ Eli Carrico.

The Australian Reserve Bank will soon introduced “tactile banknotes” to assist visually impaired people identify the different denominations.

RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said existing features to help the vision impaired will be continued, such as bright colours and different sizes, but now the Bank will also add a “tactile” feature which is still being designed.

“The testing and trialling process for the next generation of banknotes is ongoing and designs have not yet been finalised,” he said.

“[The new designs] will be released in a timely way, so that the public can be confident they understand how to recognise and use the new banknotes.”

The campaign for this new series of banknotes was led by 13-year-old Connor McLeod, along with the members of the visually impaired community.

In May last year McLeod, who is legally blind, lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against the RBA’s current banknotes, arguing it discriminates against the 300,000 visually impaired people people in Australia.

After receiving money for Christmas, and being embarrassed for not being able to tell how much it was, McLeod began a petition for the new banknotes, which attracted to 57,000 signatures and led a meeting with the RBA last November, prompting the this week’s announcement by the RBA.

According to research carried out by David Airey, there are limited countries that use tactile identification method on their banknotes. He writes: “Brazil, Thailand, Malawi, and Bahrain use embossing. China’s banknotes are said to include Chinese Braille. Hong Kong followed China’s lead. And all Chilean banknotes have tactile features in one corner.”

Note Printing Australia, a subsidiary of the RBA, already includes tactile features on money it prints for to a particular country it chose not to disclose, and is expected by some to take on the new print series.

“Having close connections in the industry, NPA is able to… recommend appropriate features to suit the preferred design configuration or work with the customers to develop a feature to meet their specific need,” the website reads.

“The company has evolved and embraced the latest technology to keep up with the demands of its customers and hence has invested heavily in recent years and has every intention of investing more in coming years to further improve quality and increase its service offering.”

Currently vision impaired people can use devices such as “coin holders” and “cash testers” which must be carried around with them, or a complicated organisation systems which involves putting different denominations in separate pockets, or wallet compartments.

Not only will the new banknotes make it easier for the visually impaired to identify the notes, but it will also prevent them from being short-changed.

A recent survey by Vision Australia found that almost half of the blind respondents feel they are being short changed on occasion.

“All members of the community should be able to simply differentiate notes by touch, without using additional devices or asking others for assistance,” said General Manager of Advocacy and Engagement with Vision Australia, Maryanne Diamond AO.

“We have led the campaign for tactile features on banknotes for many years. Countless submissions have been made to the RBA and the Federal Government by generations of advocates, so it’s pleasing to hear the commitment to tactile features made today.

“This is a great outcome for Connor, and he should be very proud of the significant result his efforts have contributed to.”

Read more here.