Disable user-unfriendly currency

The visually impaired have a tough time identifying notes

If you’ve ever squinted in the dark trying to figure out a 50 note from a 10, it would give you a fleeting insight into the difficulties faced by the visually-challenged and elderly, on a regular basis.

And for that reason, a recent communication from the Reserve Bank of India on the new 20 note has triggered a fresh round of concern among those working with differently abled people. Does this note have indicators for the visually-challenged to be able to identify it?

A little probing suggests that denominations below 100 are not user-friendly for the visually impaired. That’s not just worrisome, but also insensitive for a nation that has a large visually-impaired population and a growing ageing population.

In fact, a petition doing the rounds to make Indian currency more accessible asks, “how would you feel if everytime you want to spend or get cash , you have to rely on another person to know the amount. Frightening and disabling isn’t it?” And yet, this is the daily challenge of over 50 lakh blind people in the country and the lakhs of senior citizens with low eyesight, the petition states.

“Totally blind people need different size of notes and tactile marks that can be easily felt by touch. Low vision individuals need contrast colours and large font. Most of our bank notes and coins are difficult for the blind to identify. The new notes have multiplied the challenge. Digital currency still remains inaccessible….,” the petition notes, urging the Finance Ministry, RBI and Prime Minister to make all modes of monetary transactions accessible for all persons with disabilities including the blind. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 mandates all Indian public and private establishments to provide services in an accessible manner, the petition says. But do we need a law to make institutions sensitive to the needs of the disabled and elderly?