Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Accessible currency: Wireless app for banknotes launched

From COAT:

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing has now launched EyeNote™App, a free app for wireless users who are blind or visually impaired that will read out what denomination of U.S. currency they have.

As you may recall, in May 2002, COAT leading affiliate, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and two visually impaired individuals filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Their Section 508 complaint alleged that the currency of the United States violated the rights of people who are blind and visually impaired because they could not denominate U.S. paper currency. Then in October 2008, the District Court ruled that the Department of the Treasury must provide meaningful access to U.S. currency for blind and other visually impaired persons in the next currency redesign.

The app, called EyeNote™, is a free mobile device app designed for Apple iPhone (3G, 3Gs, 4), and for the 4th Generation iPod Touch and iPad2 platforms, and is available through the Apple App Store. The app reads money back to 1996 and can provide an audible or vibrating response. Research indicates that more than 100,000 blind and visually impaired individuals currently own an Apple iPhone.

This new free wireless app release appears to be a step forward in meeting the goal of accessible currency, although it does not meet the needs of users without wireless devices or users without these specific devices.

However, the government is working on other measures such as a Currency Reader Program whereby a U.S. resident who is blind or visually impaired, receives a coupon to be applied to purchase of a denominating device. Other measures may include continuing to add large high contrast numerals and different background colors to redesigned currency. Other solutions include adding raised tactile features to redesigned currency, which would provide users with a means of identifying each denomination via touch, which is probably the most preferred method, to avoid relying on strangers.