Australia launches tactile banknote to aid blind people

One side of the new five dollar note showing Queen Elizabeth Image copyright Reserve Bank of Australia
Image caption The note has small, raised dots along two edges

Australia's newest banknote goes into circulation on 1 September with a tiny new feature designed to help people who are blind or visually impaired.

The A$5 note has two raised dots on both of its long sides, allowing those who cannot see to identify its value, ABC reports. It's the country's first note to feature the tactile markings, and is being hailed as a major breakthrough. "For the first time in the history of Australian currency it will be possible for someone who is blind or vision-impaired to just pick up a note and know instantly what it is," says Bruce Maguire from the non-profit Vision Australia organisation. He says the change will help 360,000 Australians.

Currently, blind or visually impaired people have to rely on others to identify the note and give the correct change. Some use a measuring instrument - which ABC News notes can be fiddly in a busy shop - or smart phone apps.

The new design follows a petition started in 2012 by teenager Connor McLeod, who is blind from birth, and his mother. It gathered more than 57,000 signatures and is being credited with persuading the Reserve Bank of Australia to make the change. "Now when I grow up, I won't have to rely on trusting that people have always given me the right change," Connor writes on the news.com.au website. "I can feel the markings on the bank notes and tell them if they've given me the wrong change and also think to myself: I did that."

Currencies vary widely in their accessibility features. Some simply have different sizes for each denomination, but others - including the euro - use intaglio printing creating relief marks that can be felt. From next year, the Bank of England will include raised dots on new £10 and £20 notes.

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