Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let Your Money Talk

By Shannon Ramsay, Information and Assistance Advocate, CFILC

Perhaps you have been in a situation where you asked for change and you found out later that you had been given the wrong amount of money.  You could not do anything about this because you did not have a way of checking the denominations of the bills as they were given to you.  Maybe you wanted to pay for something and you found out that the bills in your wallet were different in value than you thought they were.  These upsetting and embarrassing situations confront individuals with vision impairments and print-related disabilities every day in the United States because they cannot tell U.S. currency apart by touch.

Countries in other parts of the world, such as the member nations in the European Union, use currency which is a different size in length and width based on the value of the bill.  The United States does not follow this practice at this time.  American currency feels the same whether you are holding a one-dollar bill or a one-hundred-dollar bill in your hand.  While the U.S. mint has started printing currency with different color markings and larger numbers, these changes to American money do not help individuals with print-related disabilities, those who are color blind, and people with a wide array of visual impairments. 
   
There are several small, easy-to-use gadgets on the market which you can use to handle the challenge of identifying the money you have.  One money identifier available on the market is called the Franklin Talking Bill Reader, which is sold by Independent Living Aids.  You can find out more about the Franklin Money Identifier and you can also purchase it at the Independent Living Aids website www.independentliving.com

It’s a handheld device which allows the user to immediately determine the denominations of U.S. dollar bills.  The device allows you to present the correct amount of cash at the end of a transaction and to count and sort the change you receive.  The Franklin money identifier will identify any current or recent designs of U.S. currency.  It will speak the value of the bill it reads in English or Spanish depending on what the user prefers, and the announcement can be made aloud or through earphones.  This device couples visual pattern recognition technology with an embedded digital camera to read the currency the user wishes to identify.

The Franklin Bill Identifier has a simple two-button interface, and it employs voice commands to prompt the user.  All the user has to do is point the device at a bill from any angle and depress a button.  The Franklin Money Identifier comes with PC software so the device can be updated if there are any changes in the design of U.S. currency.  An audio CD with recorded instructions and a USB connector also come with the device.  The device operates on two AAA batteries and sells for $299.95. 
      
Another currency identifier on the market is called the Money Talks Money Identifier.  It is a portable, easy-to-use device which can be used to quickly identify paper currency.  This device recognizes and announces the value of U.S. paper money from $1.00 to $100.00.  To operate this device you simply switch it on, slide the money into the slot on the front of the device, and touch the “M” button.  The Money Talks device will announce the denomination of the currency in a clear male voice.  The device can identify both the old and new versions of American currency, and it can identify either the front or the back of the bill.  This device was developed by MaxiAids, which sells the device.  You can find more information about the Money Talks Money Identifier at www.maxiaids.com  The Money Talks Money Identifier costs $199.95.  The device has a volume control button and a headset jack for privacy.  It comes with print and cassette instructions and is operated by three AAA batteries.  The device measures 4-3/8 inches long by 3-3/8 inches wide by 1-1/8 inches thick, and it comes in a lightweight plastic storage case.

A third handy little device for identifying currency is called the iBill Talking Banknote Identifier.  It is sold by Orbit Research for $99.00-$109.00.  This device can be purchased through the Orbit Research website at www.orbitresearch.com  It helps people with vision challenges to identify the money they are paying with or the change which they receive in stores or restaurants.  This device is very simple to use because the individual simply inserts the end of a bill into a slot on the side of the unit and presses a button.  The denomination of the bill is announced almost immediately in a female voice.  The user can insert either end of the bill into the slot on the side of the device to determine the value of the bill.  This little device is very compact and lightweight.  It measures 3.0 inches long by 1.6 inches wide by 0.7 inches thick.  The iBill identifies all U.S. currency in circulation at this time with 99% accuracy.  Also, the device can be updated when new designs of currency are released.  The unit gives the user a clear error message when a bill is too badly torn or defaced to be identified.

It is very easy to use the iBill currency identifier since it only has two buttons.  The device is operated by just one AAA battery which lasts for about a year with normal use of the device.  The user manual for this device is provided in large print and an audio format.

A great feature of the iBill money identifier is its variable setting for how a bill is identified.  The user can have the denomination of the bill, such as “one” or “five”, spoken aloud.  You can also choose to have the device identify bills using a pattern of beeps or strong vibrations.  The vibration setting for currency identification is especially helpful in noisy settings, and it also makes the device useful for deaf-blind individuals.  In addition, the user can change the volume setting on the device.

A fourth currency identifier is called the Noteteller and it is sold by Brytech for $300.  It operates in essentially the same way as the other currency identifiers which this article describes.  You can find out more about the Noteteller and you can also purchase it at the Brytech website www.brytech.com

An additional solution to the problem of identifying currency is to put bills into a scanner and to use optical character recognition software such as Open Book or Kurzweil 1000 to determine the denomination of a bill.  Most recent versions of these scanning software packages have a function for identifying currency.

Have you ever used a currency identifier? If so, was it accurate? Tell us about your experience with or without a currency identifier in the comment box below. 

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