There is no denying that visual impairment not only limits people’s ability to see clearly, but also perform what should be even the most simple of everyday tasks. In fact, in India alone, there were 7.2 million blind people in 1990, which rose to 8.8 million in 2015, and is expected to rise by an additional 0.50% by 2020, according to a study published online by The Lancet Global Health Journal in 2017.
Home to one-fourth of the world’s total 36 million blind population, India is taking it a step further with technological advancements fit for a good purpose. The country’s Reserve Bank (RBI) is looking at a mobile phone-based solution to help the visually impaired to easily identify Indian banknotes.
An idea originally mentioned in June 2018, the RBI is now seeking to bring it to life by launching a tender for the development of such a device. The guidelines include instant recognition of India’s banknotes with an integrated system that speaks the denomination out loud to the user (in Hindi or English). The device should ideally be small and sophisticated enough to be hand-held and able to differentiate each denomination within a few seconds. Among many other things, it is clear that this tool will positively impact the lives of the visually impaired.
At present, banknotes holding denominations of Rs 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 2000 are in circulation where notes greater than Rs 100 are equipped with intaglio identification marks for the blind. It is the RBI’s hope that this, alongside the planned mobile application, will enable citizens with a visual impairment to easily identify and count bills.
Governments across the world have done their part in making the lives of the visually impaired better by devising unique ways for the blind to identify currency notes of different denominations. In countries such as Canada, Australia and Malaysia, each currency note has different accessibility features. While, back in 2011, the U.S. developed a mobile application called EyeNote that identifies U.S. currency – a potential point of reference for RBI and other national banks seeking to aid the blind.
With World Braille Day recently celebrated last January 4, the need to raise awareness about the challenges facing 1.3 billion visually impaired across the globe is now catching speed and rolling into action.