• The new tactile feature is a massive win for blind Australians. (AP / Reserve Bank / SBS)Source: AP / Reserve Bank / SBS
“It’s going to have a big effect on my life and the lives of others who are blind or vision impaired.”
Ben Winsor

1 Sep 2016 - 12:05 PM  UPDATED 1 Sep 2016 - 7:39 PM

Australia’s new five dollar note has already been branded ugly by many, but there’s one group of Australians who couldn’t care less about clashing colours or crowded designs.

The new note – released into circulation today – will contain a so called ‘tactile feature’ for blind and vision impaired Australians.

“The tactile feature on the $5 banknote is one raised bump on each of the long edges of the banknote next to the top-to-bottom window,” the Reserve Bank of Australia says.

Bruce Maguire, Lead Policy Advisor with Vision Australia, has been blind since birth. He says the feature will boost people’s independence.

“It’s going to have a big effect on my life and the lives of others who are blind or vision impaired,” Maguire says. “We won’t have to rely on other people to tell us, or on a plastic gauge we can only use later on.”

Maguire says the current plan is to include two bumps on the next $10 note, three bumps on the $20 and so forth.

The five dollar note is popular with blind Australians because paying to the nearest multiple of 5 ensures is given in coins only, which are easier to count.

Blind and vision impaired Australians have previously relied on ‘cash test’ gauge to work out denominations by the size of each note.

Many would use the gauge to count and organise cash in the morning, but it wasn’t always convenient.

“If you’re in a shop and there are 20 people in the checkout queue behind you, you don’t have time to get out the gauge,” Maguire says.

“Although we’re moving to a cashless society, there’re many things you still use cash for – from pizza delivery to getting a coffee.”

Maguire says the feature will be a massive confidence boost for many who have struggled with earlier notes.

“I’ve certainly been in situations where I’m not certain I’ve received the right change,” he tells SBS.

It’s not necessarily people intentionally ripping off blind customers, he says, but that shopkeepers are often rushed and vision impaired people can’t correct them.  

“We’ll have more confidence and will be able to deal with it immediately,” he says.

Maguire says the Reserve Bank is using the latest technology to manufacture the feature. Other countries use embossing to differentiate between the notes, but that can get squashed over time Maguire says.

The Reserve Bank is building the “largish bump” right into the structure of the note, Maguire says.

“Canada is the only other country that I’m aware of that’s using that method,” he says.

New $5 note to help visually impaired
The new five dollar note, to be released into circulation on Thursday to beat counterfeiters, will help visually impaired Australians distinguish between different banknotes.

Blind and vision impaired Australians have been campaigning for a new tactile features for years.

Alexandria Lancaster started a Change.org petition three years ago on behalf of her blind son, Connor McLeod.

“It really ramped up at that point,” Maguire says.

Now 15, Connor has continued the campaign.

“The $5 that comes out tomorrow isn’t ugly to me,” he wrote in an article yesterday, “It’s the first Australian bank note that Australia’s 360,000 blind people, like me, can read.”

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