Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Blind want say in feel of new money

Published:Thursday | March 10, 2022 | 12:09 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
Damion Rose shows how he uses a cash reader phone app to identify currency. The blind community has asked to be consulted before the new currency notes go into circulation.
Damion Rose shows how he uses a cash reader phone app to identify currency. The blind community has asked to be consulted before the new currency notes go into circulation.

Less than 24 hours after the Government announced that new currency notes would be put into circulation soon, the Jamaica Society for the Blind has clamoured for inclusion in the final sign-off of the dollar bills.

Conrad Harrison, executive director of the Jamaica Society for the Blind, said it was important for the blind and visually impaired community to vet and give feedback on the features.

Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance, used his Budget Debate address in Parliament on Tuesday to advise that the new notes would be more durable and pledged that they would be distinguishable for the blind and visually impaired.

“I’m assuming that we will be consulted before it gets into circulation because for persons who are blind, identifying currency can be a big challenge ... . What we need is something that is tactile,” Harrison said in a Gleaner interview on Wednesday.

“I mean, it could be dots, it could be shapes, but something that is tactile and something that is durable, even when the currency is crushed and creased, we won’t have a challenge identifying it.”

Harrison disclosed that the Society met with the Bank of Jamaica last year and was informed that changes would have been made to local currency.


He said blind and visually impaired persons often have difficulty in identifying the current Jamaican currency notes when they are crushed.

“There is a situation now where the currencies, the notes, they are all the same sizes. There is some marking on the currencies, but most of us who are blind really don’t pay any attention to it because it is very very frail, and it can only be picked up when the currency notes are brand new,” Harrison said.

Visually impaired youth Damion Rose says the new currency notes will be easily identifiable for blind persons if they have a cash reader app on their phones.

“We are able to hold the money over the camera of the phone and it tells us the denomination,” Rose said.

He said that although there are marks on each current local note, he sometimes has a challenge distinguishing them, except for the $500 bill.

“I remember the J$500 has a circle in the top right-hand corner that you can feel. I took a taxi and gave the man a J$500 and he gave me back a J$500, but based on the feel of it, I knew it wasn’t the same one that I gave to him, and when I said to him, ‘A nuh di same J$500 this,’ he said, ‘Yeah, man, but a J$500 same way.’ When I took it into a shop, I found out that it was counterfeit,” Rose told The Gleaner.

He said that he has developed a knack for identifying other local currency, with the J$50 not having a single line in the top right-hand corner and the J$100 marked with two lines.

Rose hopes the new currency notes will have easily identifiable markers for the visually impaired and blind persons to feel.

“Probably use a more raised material, but something that you may be able to feel it more,” he said.

Kamika Braithwaite, who suffers from glaucoma and is visually impaired, hopes she will be able to distinguish between the colours of the new currency notes.

“For me, because I have some level of vision, I use both feeling and the little vision I have left, so I will look on the colours and I can see the numbers if I look very closely,” Braithwaite told The Gleaner.

She added: “I can see text, but I can’t read the text, so I can see the figures on the notes, but I have to bring it very close to distinguish how much it is. Details like facial features, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish.”