Free Press Journal

New currency unfriendly for visually-impaired citizens


Mumbai: Despite meeting Reserve Bank of India (RBI) officials and writing to the central government, the visually impaired still feel unheard. After repeated reminders and mails, the authorities have not been able to make the new currency— Rs 2,000, Rs 500 and Rs 200— friendly for the visually-impaired.

In June, RBI in its bimonthly monetary policy review stated that it will look at developing a device or system to help visually-impaired identify currency notes. “We heard RBI is planning to develop a device to tackle this issue. This is close to impossible to function in such a manner. The only way they can sort this issue is by changing the size of the currency notes,” said Vishal Kumar Jain, President Blind Graduates Forum of India (BGFI).

This announcement of RBI about a device came after various associations meet with RBI officials. Jain added, “We asked RBI leadership to feel and tell us if it is easy enough to identify. They were unable too.” Commenting about the previous currency notes and the latest one (notes after demonetisation), Ajay Minocha, honorary secretary of BGFI said, “There was a size difference which allowed us to differentiate the previous currency notes.” Also, there was the tactile mark which could fade over a time period, but the consistency was the size, added Minocha. While the height of the new currency notes are same (66 millimetres), the width is different by only few millimetres which cannot be identified (in case of Rs 2,000 it is 166 mm, Rs 500 is 150 mm and Rs 200 is 146 mm). Minocha stressed that the people who have to deal with the currency more often or have to respond quickly, you cannot expect them to take a device and find out the currency denominations. “I am a working woman and I travel every day for work. There are at times, I pay wrong currency to the cab or auto driver. Some call me back and return the money. But at times when you are moving quickly, this is impossible,” stated Sampa Gupta, an IT professional. At present, she is using an app called ‘Moneyreader’. But Gupta added that the app at times does not function smoothly in low light and does not recognise coins too. “In such instance, how can one function.”

Gupta, who works in a private sector company, highlighted that the government should work towards making digital system accessible to us. “Most of the Indian websites, lack the ability to serve visually-impaired,” asserted Gupta. “The role of digital should be inclusiveness rather than other way round.”  It is estimated that India currently has around 12 million blind people against 39 million globally. Thus, showing the need for India to address this group of people too.