Blind people facing serious issues with new note size and colour, initiate online petition, social media campaign
The new notes introduced by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) post demonetisation are proving to be very difficult for blinds due to almost similar sizes. While old notes had a difference of 10mm, either in width or length in each denomination, for new notes this has been reduced to 4mm. In fact, the old Rs20 note and new Rs200 notes have identical sizes and orange colour, making it difficult for persons with low vision to identify and make appropriate transactions.
Usually as set practice, blind people identify currency notes by its sizes, while people with low vision and illiterate people identify notes by its colour. After trying to get the RBI to see reason, various organisations working with the blind have decided to go public with their frustration. Our sources tell us that one way to reduce the problem is for the RBI to withdraw old and tattered notes faster.
Noted Advocate and Solicitor Kanchan Pamnani says, "The international standard for difference in currency note sizes is 5mm. However, in new currency notes of Rs50 and Rs200, the difference is just 4mm. We heard that the new Rs100 note that is being proposed will have a difference of just 2mm when aligned with Rs50 or Rs200 note. There is already a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Court and we will intervene in this matter on 30 October 2017."
Earlier in 2009 and 2011, the RBI had held consultative meetings with associations of blind people. It even sought answers from non-governmental organisation (NGOs) in 2015 on the new design and size of currency notes. "However, to no avail-they listen, sympathise and assure but do the wrong thing," Adv Pamnani says.
The Blind Graduates Forum of India has even started an online petition (Sign the Petition here
) and campaign on social media seeking accessible Indian currency. They says, "With this petition, we urge the society to come together as a whole and contribute towards making the lives of fellow citizens much more independent. Before you go ahead and support us by signing this petition, please close your eyes and take any of the new denominations in your hand for example Rs200 and Rs20, or coins of Re1 and Rs2. Try to identify the difference between the two. It is also important to understand that the difficulty increases as the currency gets older with all the folds caused due to repeated use."
People with 100% visual impairment require notes with different sizes and tactile marks that can they can feel easily by touching the currency note. Individuals with low vision need contrast colours and large fonts to identity currency note denomination. However, "Most of our bank notes and coins are difficult for the blind to identify. The new notes have multiplied the challenge. Digital currency still remains inaccessible though they can use computers and apps using assistive technology," the Petition says.
While blind entrepreneurs are taxpayers and job creators, the Government and RBI have created an unnecessary scenario by introducing inaccessible currency, which makes them dependent again.
Quoting a blind entrepreneur, the Petition says, "I run my business. I have to deal with numerous transactions on a daily basis. Once I happen to give an Rs500 note instead of Rs20 note. The customer happily took it. I came to know about it only when my father told me about this. I am unaware as to how many times I might have done something like this.”
A visually impaired working professional, was quoted as saying, "I use computers, websites and mobile apps at work every day, but most of the bank websites and mobile apps are inaccessible for us. Despite earning a handsome monthly salary, such environment creates bias among people and compels me to repeatedly prove my abilities."
The Petition is addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, RBI Governor Dr Urjit Patel, Director of Coin and Currency sections in the Ministry of Finance and Secretary in the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
The Petition seeks intervention from the government on five issues...
1. Concern: No variation in size of different bank notes.
The earlier notes had sufficiently different size. Hence, blind people did not face significant challenges to identify them. However, the difference in length of newly introduced notes has been reduced from 10mm to 4mm. Width of all new notes is the same. Difference of 4mm in length is almost impossible to identify by touch alone.
Proposed Solution: Maintain at least 10mm difference in size - length and width.
2. Concern: Imperceptible bleed lines / tactile marking.
Bleed line or tactile marking have been introduced in the new notes for Blind. However, they are not perceptible and fade away with use.
Proposed Solution: Bleed lines on polymer notes are perceptible, and not on paper notes. So shift to polymer notes. Withdraw the new Rs50 and Rs100 notes on priority and introduce notes with at least 10mm variation and easily perceptible markings that does not fade with use.
3. Concern: No variation in shape, size and colour in coins.
Coins have always been inaccessible for long due to lack of standardization. Often a newly launched coin is very similar to an old coin of a different value.
Proposed Solution: Adopt different shape, size and colour. Withdraw old cpoins of Re1, Rs2 and Rs5.
4. Concern: Inaccessible banking websites and apps
Visually impaired people use assistive technology like screen reading software, magnifiers to use computers and mobile phones. However, most websites and apps does not comply with accessibility standards for those technologies to work.
Proposed Solution: Make it mandatory for all websites to comply with Website Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. Make it mandatory for all apps to comply with BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines.
5. Concern: Inaccessible ATMs
RBI successfully introduced accessible ATMs in India. However, the number of ATMs remains low and many do not comply accessibility guidelines issued by Indian Banks' Association (IBA).
Proposed Solution: All ATMs need to be accessible for all persons with disabilities.