Living in a visual-oriented world presents challenges to the visually impaired, making tasks the sighted take for granted sometimes fraught with difficulty. One example is the simple act of paying for a purchase at your neighborhood market. Currency in the United States is uniform in size and feel with no tactile feedback to distinguish a $20 bill from a $100 bill or $1 bill. So how does someone who cannot see the bill’s denomination ensure that he or she pulls out the right amount to pay or receives the correct change after paying?
Until recently, this was a very real problem for the visually impaired across the country. In an effort to eliminate this issue, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), in partnership with the Library of Congress' National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), launched the U.S. Currency Reader Program in 2015. The program provides visually impaired individuals with access to a free tool that can quickly and easily detect the denomination of a selected bill.
"To date, more than 35,000 currency readers have been distributed to eligible individuals and we have received a very positive response from the visually impaired community about their functionality,” said BEP Director Len Olijar. “February is Low Vision Awareness Month and what better time to create additional awareness about the program and encourage others to apply for one?"
The currency reader is a small electronic device, called iBill®, that can read currency and provide denomination information in a variety of ways – by speaking the denomination aloud in a clear voice, by issuing a pattern of audible tones, or through a pattern of vibrations for added security.
In addition to the currency reading device, BEP also offers apps for Android and iOS mobile operating systems: the IDEAL® Currency Identifier and EyeNote® app respectively. These free apps use the cameras built into modern smartphones and mobile devices to read the denomination of bills.
Individuals needing a currency reader can request one by completing an application on the BEP website at http://www.bep.gov/uscurrencyreaderform.html
or by calling toll-free to (844) 815-9388 to request an application by mail.
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