Difference between $1 bill or a $100 bill!
September 3, 2005 2:46 PM   Subscribe

How does a blind person know the difference between any american bank notes? For example the difference between $1 bill or a $100 bill?

To my knowledge there is no embossing or raised parts on the bill the tell the difference. Plus the size of the notes are all the same.
posted by spooksie to Work & Money (18 answers total)

Response by poster: So how do they know what the notes are in the first place. You cant trust anyone regarding money.
posted by spooksie at 3:01 PM on September 3, 2005

In the movie Ray, it portrayed Charles, early in his career, of only accepting singles.

Kinda hard to get away with that these days, I'd imagine.

posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:01 PM on September 3, 2005

Well, with the help of a sighted person (or upon withdrawal from an ATM or something), the blind fold or crease different bills in a specific, identifiable way, or order their different bills in their wallet according to whatever personal system they devise.
However, when handed a fresh note, there's no way to tell. They just have to have faith that most people would feel bad about scamming the blind. The other day, I saw a blind person make a cash transaction at a 7-11. He had a sighted friend with him who assisted.

I imagine, though, that the increasingly ubiquitous Debit/Credit card machines at cash registers make the inability to identify notes less and less of a problem.

But, it can be pretty easy to guess. Ones and Fives are rarely crisp, Tens and Twenties tend to be fresher, and Fifties and Hundreds are generally mint condition. Although, that's not failsafe by any means.

While we're at it, there's no good reason NOT to make bill currency blind-friendly. For example, (although I can't claim that it has anything to do with blind-identification) the Mexican 20 Peso note has a piece of transparent plastic imbedded in it. It certainly would not be difficult to equip every bill either with braille or some other identifier.
posted by Jon-o at 3:26 PM on September 3, 2005

That link is wrong. They have electronic readers that they can pass a bill through and it will tell them audibly the denomination. It works the same way that that vending machines do, and it's small enough to fit in their pocket. There is no need to rely on sighted people.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:39 PM on September 3, 2005

Okay, I see that the link does in fact address the issue of bill readers in a later question (what the hell is a question about unemployment doing in between?) But that site obviously has some kind of agenda to drive which is why they poopoo the bill readers. Their objections are pretty silly, suggesting that the person has to put the bill in correctly... well duh. I can agree that it's not the greatest solution but it works well enough for lots of blind people and it's a hell of a lot better than blind trust, excuse the pun.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:44 PM on September 3, 2005

Example of a money reader.
posted by kdern at 4:38 PM on September 3, 2005

i once ordered food at burger king from a blind cashier who appeared to be able to determine the denomination of the bills by touch. i don't know how. maybe the ink is slightly raised, but if the bill was at all crumpled, it seems like it would interfere.
posted by clarahamster at 7:11 PM on September 3, 2005

It seems like credit/debit cards wouldn't help. How would they know what's written in the amount field?
posted by Caviar at 8:38 PM on September 3, 2005

There is usually a beep when stuff is scanned in, so you can count by items, not at all failsafe though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:33 PM on September 3, 2005

Here's the official line:

What features will the redesigned notes have to help those who are visually impaired? What other ways have low-vision features been used?

The addition of different colors for different denominations will help all people – including those with low vision – distinguish denominations.

Also, the redesigned notes will continue to feature a large dark-colored numeral identifying the note’s denomination in the lower-right corner of the back of the bill. This feature, first incorporated into the 1996-series designs, was among the recommendations of a 1995 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study on currency features to assist those who are visually impaired, prepared for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Notes also include a denominating feature readable by special devices designed to help those who are blind verify denominations.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing continues to evaluate the recommendations of the 1995 NAS study and other research to determine whether other changes in currency design could be implemented that would improve its usefulness to people who are blind.

I believe that study is the one reproduced here:

U.S. citizens with low vision experience a uniquely difficult task in that U.S. banknotes are remarkably uniform in size, color, and general design. The banknotes provide no basis for denominating by blind persons. Visual identification of denomination by people with low vision is generally so challenging that many revert to techniques used by people who are blind.

Blind people must trust others to inform them about the denominations of bills received. In the absence of features that are usable by blind people in the present bills, different denominations, once identified by a trusted sighted person, are sorted and stored in different ways....

[Other countries use such] features as variable size, variable color, and tactile markings. In some cases, a device is made available to blind people to aid in denominating banknotes. For example, England issues a size template, and Canada supplies its blind citizens with a portable banknote reader with audio output....

The committee identified three features useful to visually disabled people that can be incorporated in U.S. banknotes without significant further research: banknote size that differs with denomination, large numerals indicating denomination, and banknote color that differs with banknote denomination.

The last two have been implemented, but the US is probably stuck with a one-size banknote barring major changes in what ATMs and other devices will process (of course, such are in use worldwide ...). The kind of political courage it would take for such a change doesn't exist, I'm afraid.
posted by dhartung at 9:37 PM on September 3, 2005

Over here in Poland, every bill has a slightly raised symbol in it's bottom left hand corner. Bills are also different colors, slightly different sizes. Each bill also has raised print and every denomination has different security features. The 10 zloty note has just a few features, the 200zl note has all of them, including holograms (which give very characteristic tactile feedback).

You can see what I'm talking about in this Wikipedia article.
posted by jedrek at 1:39 AM on September 4, 2005

In Canada, new notes are printed with braille dots for value.

Of course considering the way bills are handled I expect the dots on these bills to be useless within only a few transactions. :-S
posted by shepd at 3:30 AM on September 4, 2005

The person I knew had his (sighted) wife place bills of different denominations into different money clips each morning.
posted by availablelight at 5:05 AM on September 4, 2005

Japan has raised dots on its bills. Not braille or the local equivalent (tenji), simply one dot on the Y1000, two horizontal on the Y5000, and two vertical on the Y10,000.

There was a Y2000 note issued briefly (in 2000). Not sure what they put on that.
posted by adamrice at 8:01 AM on September 4, 2005

When I was a kid, there was this "urban legend" that held that the paper used for each denomination varied in thickness from the others, and that was one of the ways the blind could tell the differences...by feel. It sounded so cool to your average 10-year-old.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:16 PM on September 4, 2005

At the store where I work, we have a blind customer who comes in quite often. He usually asks that we give him singles for change, which we're happy to do for him.

Another thing he does is fold any higher-denomination bills when he receives them, so he can tell which are which later on.
posted by neckro23 at 9:09 PM on September 4, 2005

Most of the visually impaired folk I see coming through my line at the grocery store are either accompanied by someone who handles money for them, or they use some sort of card.

Incidentally, all US bank notes are manufactured to be 1 gram. Numerous devices make use of this fact since, given a stack of money of a single denomination, the stack can be weighed to find it's value. That'd make it a real challenge to redesign money to be accessible without invalidating old bills or hugely inconveniencing most anyone dealing with a large number of bills day to day.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:34 PM on September 4, 2005

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