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Accessible $20 note set to hit Australian wallets


2 October 2019 at 4:34 pm
Maggie Coggan
For the average person, paying for your lunch with a $20 note might not seem like a big deal. But for a person with vision loss, it can be a stressful and time-consuming ordeal. 


Maggie Coggan | 2 October 2019 at 4:34 pm


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Accessible $20 note set to hit Australian wallets
2 October 2019 at 4:34 pm

For the average person, paying for your lunch with a $20 note might not seem like a big deal. But for a person with vision loss, it can be a stressful and time-consuming ordeal. 

To identify a banknote, a person who is blind or has low vision has to use an instrument that measures the length of notes, or a mobile app that scans and identifies the note. 

Chris Edwards, Vision Australia government relations and advocacy manager, told Pro Bono News that while those techniques were fine if a person was in their living room, it could quickly become stressful in busy or loud settings. 

“If you’re in a queue to pay for a coffee in a cafe, it makes it very challenging to do so if you’ve only got those things to help you,” Edwards said. 

But those days might be over. 

On Tuesday, Vision Australia and the Reserve Bank of Australia unveiled a $20 note which features three raised bumps on each of the long edges of the banknote, allowing people who are blind or have low vision to easily identify the note. 

Other features to assist people who are blind to include millimetre-specific sizing compared to other denominations and holographic panels designed to catch the light as the note is folded. 

The note will go into circulation on 9 October and joins the $5, $10 and $50 notes which have all been updated with the tactile features over the past few years.   

Edwards said it was a small change that would make an enormous difference. 

“This will make a huge difference to improving accessibility and the ability to live confidently and independently as a blind person,” he said.

“With four out of the five notes done people can reach into their wallet and be able to quickly and easily identify their notes, feel much more confident in handing over the right note and know that they’re getting the right change back.”  

The blind and low vision community has campaigned for the notes to be updated for over five years, after teenager Connor McLeod launched a change.org petition in 2014 that received over 50,000 signatures.

Edwards thanked the RBA for responding to the community’s calls for the notes to be updated. 

“We commend the RBA for responding to the needs of people who are blind or have low vision and demonstrating that accessibility is not something that should be put in the too-hard basket,” he said. 

He said Vision Australia was currently in talks with the RBA over the release of the $100 note. 

“Around this time next year, all notes will have the feature,” he said.


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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