Money & Banking

The different dimensions to designing currency notes for visually impaired

Surabhi | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

The visually impaired get a feel of currency notes at a training centre (file photo) | Photo Credit: V Sudershan

RBI suggests device; activists say specific shapes for denominations would be best

Currency notes should be of different lengths and widths or have simple symbols embossed on them for easy identification, as this would be simpler than a separate device to recognise them, according to associations representing the visually impaired.

The comments come after the Reserve Bank of India, in its bimonthly Monetary Policy Review, said it would look into the feasibility of developing a device or mechanism to help the visually challenged easily identify currency notes.

“The Reserve Bank is of the view that technological progress has opened up new vistas for making Indian banknotes more recognisable for the visually challenged, facilitating their day-to-day transactions,” it had said, adding that it would issue guidelines in six months.

“A simple solution would be to design notes with lengths, breadths and thickness reflecting their value. So a ₹10 note should be the smallest in size and a ₹2,000 note the biggest,” said Bhaskar Y Mehta, President, National Association for the Blind.

Weakening symbols

According to Mehta, Braille or embossing symbols on the currency notes does not help as the sense of touch weakens over time.

“Correct identification of notes has been a big issue for the blind. But the question is whether the government and RBI would be willing to invest large funds for such a small minority,” he observed.

Some, however, believe that embossing or engraving symbols on the notes makes it faster to identify them. “There is no difference in size in the ₹20 and ₹2,000 notes. The only difference is in colour but a visually impaired person can’t see it. If there is a symbol on every note, we can understand it,” said S Pavunthai, Vice-President, Indian Association for the Blind.

The issue is not new. While the visually impaired have always had problems in correctly identifying notes, the challenge has increased post demonetisation and with the new series of currency notes, activists say.

Braille-like signs

Earlier, in Budget 2014-15, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had also promised the government would print currency notes with Braille-like signs to assist the visibly challenged.

The RBI had, in 2015, announced new ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes with bleed marks and identification marks (circle in ₹500 and diamond in ₹1,000) to help the visually impaired. These were subsequently demonetised.

A petition was also filed in the Delhi High Court and there have also been protests in many parts of the country on this issue.

Published on June 10, 2018
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