x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Plans to make it easier for the visually impaired to identify notes will curb fears of being cheated and boost confidence

Plans to make it easier for the visually impaired to identify notes will curb fears of being cheated and boost confidence.
Ahmed Karim scans a Dh500 dirham bill using an app on his phone. Lee Hoagland/The National
Ahmed Karim scans a Dh500 dirham bill using an app on his phone. Lee Hoagland/The National
DUBAI // Financial independence, a boost to their confidence and less fear of being cheated are among the benefits visually-impaired people hope to gain from new banknotes with Braille features.

The Central Bank issued instructions in July for banknotes to be printed “using Braille characters so that they will be readable by those who lost their vision”.

With no date yet announced for when the notes will be available, The National spoke to those set to benefit most from the introduction of the notes.

Bank officials have met social welfare officers and groups of blind people, who were asked for their opinion.

“We took the samples and gave them to people with visual disabilities to check if the Braille marking was suitable and easy to identify,” said Nazem Fawzi, a disability adviser for the Ministry of Social Affairs.

“They said signs on the right side were better and we have given that feedback to the Central Bank. These are very small signs that can be felt by the finger so people can recognise the money.

He said this would help people “to manage their money more independently”.

The plan is to start with Braille on Dh100 and Dh50 notes and gradually expand it to all banknotes.

“It will be revolutionary for me,” said Ahmed Karim, a Pakistani expatriate who works as an administration co-ordinator and is blind.

“It will make a huge difference to the community of the blind. Nobody will be able to cheat me because once I put my finger on the note, in a second I will find out. In the grocery store or mall, I will be independent.”

Abla Al Kaabi, an Emirati who works with the Emirates Association for the Blind and is herself visually impaired, described it as an excellent plan.

“When I told some of my friends who are totally blind they were very happy,” said Ms Al Kaabi.

“Before I shop, I organise my money with Dh100 on one side, Dh10 in another and Dh5 on a separate side. We can organise notes by folding into different sizes or in different sections, but we don't know when someone gives us money. Then we have to trust them.

“Sometimes I take someone with me shopping or I ask my driver to see if the notes are correct. If it is wrong, then I have to go back to the shop or ignore it.

“I can see a bit because I'm not totally blind; I learnt from a friend in university to stack notes in different sections.

“It helps me get more familiar with the notes.”

The UAE will join Hong Kong, China and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in issuing notes with Braille features. China was the first nation to imprint Braille on yuan notes more than a decade ago.

The Indian government announced similar plans for its currency in July.

The UK and Canada decided against adding Braille to banknotes after research showed that fewer people were able to read Braille these days.

Instead, bolder colours, larger numbers, notes of different sizes and length, raised dots, symbols and tactile features have been adopted to help the visually impaired to identify notes.

Currency researchers say of more than 180 nations that issue paper denomination notes, only about 23 use symbols, tactile markings, grooves or raised dots that aid the visually impaired tobetter identify banknotes.

“Yes, not everyone knows Braille but if currency notes are in Braille, training can be given in a few hours,” said Mr Karim.

“It's not rocket science. You practise it and you will learn it.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae