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This ₹2 device lets the blind ‘read’ currency notes

Muthukumar K BL Research Bureau | Updated on January 20, 2018

bl21_currency reader

The home-designed ‘Tiffy template’ epitomises frugal innovation at its best

Every time Tiffany, 25, went shopping in Thiruvananthapuram, she ended up getting short-changed –– literally.

Shopkeepers who had no qualms about taking advantage of her visual disability would often slip her a ₹10 note and pass it off as a ₹20 note.

When she complained about it to her Bengaluru-based friend and inventor Paul D’Souza, he came up with a solution.

He designed a small credit card-like device made of PVC, with step-down edges on one side.

By folding the notes over this tool, a visually challenged person can identify any Indian currency –– thanks to differences in the length and breadth of notes of various denominations.

For instance, if someone wants to confirm if he or she has been given a ₹10 or a ₹20 note (which have the same length but different width), they can fold the note against the device and check if it sticks out on the sides.

If it does, it’s a ₹20 note, which is wider. Besides, there are also instructions in braille markings on the device to guide the visually impaired.

The ₹5 and ₹1,000 notes, however, don’t fit the template.

Frugal innovation

To dedicate the invention to his friend, D’Souza named the device ‘Tiffy’. “The Tiffy template is a clever, original and practical device. The sheer simplicity of the tool is ingenious,” says Ranganath Thota, founder of fueladream.com, a crowd-funding platform, which is currently raising funds to distribute the device free to the visually impaired .

At just ₹2, the Tiffany template is a shining example of frugal innovation, but it’s got more going for it. “It can help the visually impaired identify currencies much faster than smartphone apps designed for that purpose,” says D’Souza. 

Most Indian currency notes have the same width, which renders it difficult for the visually impaired to tell them apart. While every note has a tactile marking that identifies the denomination, they tend to fade out over time with wear and tear. 

New RBI notes

Last year, the RBI announced it would introduce ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes with enlarged identification markings along with bleed lines. “It’s easy to identify if it’s fresh off the mint,” says D’Souza. “But it’s harder with an old note that’s been in circulation,” he added.

With five patents already to his credit, D’Souza is not filing a patent for the Tiffy template. For now, he is just happy to see the smile back on Tiffany’s face.

Published on June 21, 2016

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