A small change in Australia’s new generation of bank notes is set to have a huge impact on blind and vision-impaired people.
Two tiny, raised dots — about the size of a sprinkle on a piece of fairy bread — will appear on the new $5 note, which will be released into circulation by the Reserve Bank on September 1.
“As a blind person I think this change is one of the most significant — if not the most significant — inclusive actions I’ve seen in Australia in my lifetime because while there have been other inclusive actions, like audible pedestrian crossings, they’re not universal, they differ from state to state.
“The new note with the tactile feature will help every Australian, no matter where they are.”
The change is due in large part to Sydney teenager Connor McLeod.
He launched a discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission and started a change.org petition calling for action on accessible currency which collected more than 56,000 signatures.
While Vision Australia had been advocating for tactile features on currency for years, Mr Maguire said Connor’s actions really cut through.
“What really spurred the Reserve Bank on was the petition that Connor McLeod started,” he said.
“I think that was a very strong message sent to the Reserve Bank that there is a lot of community support.”
Why has it taken so long for this change to happen?
Other currencies that use tactile functions have had issues with the ‘dot’ getting squashed.
But a new method of printing bank notes has solved that problem.
“In the last few years they’ve developed a technology that allows the tactile feature to be made as part of the note itself … so it should last as long as the note,” Mr Maguire said.
“We’re among only a handful of countries who are using that.”
How have people with low vision coped in the past?
Until now they only had a few options, the main ones being:
- Ask a stranger or simply trust that they are receiving the correct change, which relies on the other person involved in the transaction being honest and not making a mistake
- Use a plastic hinged instrument that measures the size of the money and uses Braille to describe the denomination. This is a fiddly and time-consuming process and is often not practical in a busy shop where people are lining up behind you
- Use a smart phone app that identifies the numbers for you, however there is a low rate of smart phone usage in the blind and vision-impaired community because touch screens are mostly inaccessible.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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