Greg Biss—Getty Images/First Light
By Ethan Wolff-Mann
October 15, 2015

For all the talk about impending changes to the $10 bill, there’s one group that’s particularly interested: the blind and visually impaired. The new bill will be the first that allow blind people to distinguish one denomination from another—something they now can’t do, since all U.S. paper currency is the same size, shape, and feel. “Only two major currency-issuing authorities issue notes that do not vary in size by denomination—Canada and the United States,” a Fed study reports. However, Canadian bills, unlike U.S. banknotes, feature tactile marks that allow the blind and visually impaired to tell bills apart by touch.

Though blind people have figured out workarounds, such as methods of folding bills to tell them apart, challenges around currency have long been an issue; the Treasury Department was even sued over it in 2002. Technology has made task somewhat easier, with phone apps that can identify bills, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s free iBill scanner.

Other countries are way ahead of the United States on this front, however. Most accomplish the currency differentiation by size, while others include features such as Braille or other raised markings on notes.

Unfortunately, “the first note with a tactile feature will not likely be issued before 2020,” the Bureau of Engraving and Printing estimates, mostly due to the fact that it will be be costly to implement.

Seeing as October 15 is Blind Americans Equality Day, we thought it would be appropriate to show eight currencies used in countries that actually understand that blind should be able to use cash as easily as everyone else.

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