Sunday, May 25, 2008

Canada can provide model for accessible money for blind people

Dushun Dotson, 19, who works at the snack bar at
Visions/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in NYC,
says she's overjoyed that America may one day have accessible money.

In fact, the Bank of Canada is about to begin making new accessible money because the money it introduced in 2001, which has raised bumps in a corner of each bill to indicate monetary value, is beginning to wear out, the Canadian Press reports.

Canada's paper currency doesn't use Braille but the raised markings are arranged in patterns that a blind person can feel to identify denominations from $5 to $100.

The raised markings were added to the Canadian Journey series of bank notes in 2001 after consultations with Canadian blindness groups. The markings on the money were treated with a polymer to help them endure but through use they've been flattening out and becoming unreadable.

The money also has features for Canadians who have low vision such as larger numbers and contrasting colors.

"The tactility features on our notes have generally been well received by the blind and visually impaired community," said Monica Lamoureux, a spokeswoman for the Bank of Canada."There are, however, improvements to be made, and the bank will be looking at the accessibility features in the design process for the next series of notes which the bank plans to issue beginning in 2011."

The USA lags behind Canada in the area of accessible money, but the U.S. appeals court ruling May 20 should force the American government to change its paper money because the court said U.S. money's uniform size and color discriminates against blind and visually impaired people.

The New York Times reports that many blind Americans are extremely happy with the ruling.

James A. Kutsch, the president of the Seeing Eye Inc. of Morristown, N.J., a nonprofit guide dog school, said the ruling will mean greater independence for people who are blind or visually impaired.

“Currently, identifying money requires either the assistance of another person or use of technology,” he said, referring to portable or computer-based scanners that read aloud the denominations of paper money but can cost more than $250.

“Both have limitations,” Mr. Kutsch said. “Not everyone’s a techie — not everyone wants to use or can afford to use this technology. And with the low-tech option of asking someone else, you have to rely on the integrity of the person you ask, and the availability.”