Diverse Abilities

Gina Martin

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Identifying Currency

Canadian paper currency from left to right $100, $50, $20, $10, $5

Money is only good if you know what it is!

In Canada, if you are someone who has limited vision or is totally Blind, our Canadian currency is easy to figure out the denomination. Every bill is identifiable.

We can tell from the font size, different colours, and the tactile markings of Braille. It makes it easy for the blind community to independently navigate and know what denomination we have or are giving and receiving. 

Our bills are made of plastic and are all the same size and rectangular shape. The bills are 3 inches high by 6 inches long. The printed number on each bill are 1 inch by 1 inch in diameter making it more visible for someone with low vision, to read. 

Having coloured bills is an easy way to identify which bill it is. Each denomination has its own specific colour.  Our $5 Canadian bill is blue, our $10 is purple, our $20 is green, our $50 is red, and our $100 bill is brown.

If someone is colour-blind, then the large print or the tactile markings may be helpful. 

A lot of Canadians do not know that there is Braille on our money.  It is not what the Braille says but where it is placed that we identify what it is.

Braille is a tactile method of reading. Raised bumps allow people to read with their fingertips. A full Braille cell consists of six dots. Dots 1,2,3 go down on the left side and dots 4,5,6 go down on the right.  We use these to read and write. Within the six dots, using different configurations you have all the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and contractions.

All Braille is found and felt on the top left-hand corner of our Canadian bill. 

The blue $5 bill there is 1 full Braille cell (6 dots in a up and down rectangle) 

On the purple $10 bill there are 2 full Braille cells spaced 1 cm apart. 

The green $20 bill there are 3 full Braille cells, spaced 1cm apart.

With the red $50 bill there are 4 full Braille cells, spaced 1cm apart. 

Finally, on the brown $100 bill there is a full Braille cell in the first position and another in the fourth position. Meaning there is a full Braille cell then a space of 3cm then another full Braille cell.

Bottom line, without using any vision, everyone can identify what bill(s) they have. Canadian paper currency, with circles drawn on around the areas where there is Braille

I do not go into the bank often but when I do, I always ask the teller if they know how to read the Braille on our money. So far everyone I have asked has said ‘no”. Hmm... they know now (smile). 

We no longer have $1 or $2 bills; we have coins instead. Our $1 coin is bronze in colour and is called a loonie. Our $2 coin is silver in colour with the centre of the coin being bronze with different images. We call the $2 coin a toonie.

I can decipher the difference by running my fingers around the edge of the coins. A toonie has ridges all around the edge while the loonie has flat edges along its side, like an octagon. 

All our coins are slightly different in size. The toonie is the largest with the loonie being just slightly smaller. Our 25-cent coin  (quarter) is the next size down followed by our 5-cent (nickel) and our smallest coin is the 10-cent (dime). We do not have a 1-cent coin (penny) anymore. All amounts are rounded up if  3 cents or above and rounded down if under 3 cents when paying with cash. 

Our debit cards and credit cards are also another form of currency. Pin pads with buttons are accessible because there is a Braille dot on every #5 pin pad which allows us to navigate the pin pad. There is also a tactile marking on the "ok" button.

Touch screens are not accessible to me and take away my independence. Most people do not realize that change is not always best for everyone. 

Sighted person using a touch screen at the bank. Bank touch screens are not accessible for those who are blindRecently my bank CIBC has changed their credit cards. The card number and expiry date used to be raised and the card felt durable (strong). The new cards have only visually printed numbers and the card feels thin and flimsy like a gift card, making it more difficult to distinguish between a library card and a credit card. 

What I have done to help me identify my card is to put a piece of tape on the front of the card opposite end from the chip where my thumb holds the card when I insert it. I also put a piece of tape on the backside of the card opposite the swipe strip. The tape is placed where my thumb holds the card. That way I know I have the strip facing the right way.

I also use this method when given hotel keys (tape under where my thumb holds the card to unlock the door). 

I enjoy travelling but have only dealt with a couple of different currencies. When I was in Europe there is the Euro and every bill and coin are different in size, allowing me to identify their money well. 

In the United States, American money is all the same size, colour and has no tactile markings. I fold my bills differently to identify what denomination it is, and I am hopeful that people are honest in telling me the correct bill they give me in change.  

For a one-dollar bill, I fold it width and then width again. For a five-dollar bill, I fold it width and then length. For a ten, I fold length and then width. For a twenty, I fold length then I fold both sides in and meet in the centre. For a fifty, I fold length then width then width again making a square. For a hundred, I fold both sides widthwise into centre then I fold the bill width wise again. My friend also uses this method only she folds her bills in a manner that works for her to remember.

There are money readers some people use or apps on smartphones that tell you what money you are wanting to know. Unfortunately, technology is not always available so having a manual method to fall back on is very important. There are many ways to do things so find what works most efficiently for you. 

These hacks may take us a little longer than others, but it does give us our independence.  

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