Currency Features for Visually Impaired People

Appendix D:
Features in Use Worldwide

There are currently over 180 countries in the world that issue their own banknotes. Of these, around 50 countries print the banknotes internally; the remainder have their banknotes printed by commercial currency security printers under contract. Some countries have specifically addressed the problem of visually disabled people and have striven to add appropriate features. Other countries have coincidentally included effective features in the course of producing an attractive banknote design, although the prime aim was assisting the normally sighted public to handle denominations easily.

 

Breakdown of Feature Types

The existing range of feature types is characterized below. An enlargement of their use in practice is given in the following section.

  1. variable-size banknotes;
  2. large numerals on banknotes;
  3. variable-color banknotes;
  4. special shaped patterns;
  5. specific engraved visible markings;
  6. specific engraved invisible markings;
  7. watermark features; and
  8. machine-identifiable features.

 

Description of Feature Types

 

Variable-Size Banknotes

Of the 171 issuing authorities identified by the committee, more than 100 issue banknotes that vary in size for the different denominations. Size variation currently occurs in two forms:

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Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

 

(1) the long edge varies while the short edge remains constant (e.g., in Iceland) or (2) both edges vary (e.g., in England).

Size variation was originally introduced to allow the normally sighted public an easy way to differentiate among denominations. This was particularly useful when the basic design style was common among different denominations. Wallets were produced with different size pockets to enable the banknotes to be easily separated.

Subsequently, it has been found that this is a useful aid to visually disabled people, including the blind population. Simple size gauges have been made that enable the note to be examined by touch against a fixed reference point so that denomination can be determined. Recently there has been a worldwide trend toward reducing the size of banknotes for cost-related reasons. This has been mainly caused by rising inflation leading to an increased need for ever higher denomination banknotes and, hence, extra-large sizes. Where size variation within a denominational structure exists, it has been retained for any new family of notes.

 

Large Numerals on Banknotes

Banknote designers have often considered it important to ensure that the denomination in numerals, rather than in text, is displayed in a prominent position. The size of the numerals has depended on the overall design style and the number of repetitions of the denomination on each face of the note. With fewer repetitions, it has been possible to incorporate larger numerals.

The presence of large numerals helps both the normally sighted and the visually disabled public and is an approach that has been taken with increasing frequency in recent years.

The current Dutch series of banknotes has been designed with extremely large central values on both faces. The number value is a predominant part of the design. A more common approach is the use of a single large numeral value, as displayed on the current Czech Republic currency. More and more modern designs are being produced with this type of approach. Of the 171 issuing authorities tabulated in Table D-1 (at the end of this appendix), 24 can be said to have adopted a specific scheme including large numerals in their banknote design.

 

Variable-Color Banknotes

The currency of the United States is exclusive in the world for its use of common colors front and back for all denominations of banknotes. Even where countries use same-size banknotes for each denomination, they use color as a means of distinguishing the individual value. Of the 171 issuing authorities tabulated below, 167 use a clearly differentiated color scheme for all denominations and an additional two use color for some denominations.

Although people have various degrees of color vision, distinctive color differences among denominations, using appropriately chosen colors, can form a major separation technique for all except blind people. The amount of color difference depends on the individual choice of the country.

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Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

Special Shaped Patterns

Besides printing large denominational values to assist certain sections of the visually disabled public, a more recent approach has been to print a distinctively shaped image on each note that changes with the value. The current series from the Bank of England has a solid circle to represent £5, a diamond for £10, a square for £20, and a triangle for £50. The printings are made in strong colors with a clear edge to the shape to aid recognition by the visually disabled population.

 

Specific Engraved Visible Marks

The use of intaglio printing on currency has long been regarded as a way of providing a tactile feature for blind people. This assumption is based on the fact that blind people use touch to identify the raised characteristics of braille. Since intaglio itself is a three-dimensional printing process, specific identifiers can be included to separate each denomination. The marks have taken the form of small geometric shapes that form different groupings and locations for each denomination. In practice there is a large difference between the relief of an average braille dot above the paper surface (approximately 400 µm) and that of the typical intaglio marks (approximately 40-50 µm). During the course of a banknote’s circulated life, as the note becomes worn, the level of the mark’s profile becomes reduced. Examples of tactile marks can be seen on the currencies of Germany, the Netherlands, and Malaysia. The survey (Table D-1) indicated that around 16 countries have adopted this approach for each denomination, and a further 7 have a tactile feature on some denominations.

Current thinking in the banknote manufacturing community is that the marks are an attempt to provide a feature useful to visually impaired people, but in practice they are only evident to the normally sighted. Currency design is moving toward the inclusion of large numerals or special shaped patterns.

 

Specific Engraved Invisible Marks

A recent development in features for visually disabled people can be seen in the Dutch approach to the new 100 Guilder banknote. A large part of the front surface of the note is covered with intaglio printed transparent ink in the form of randomly located dots. This has the merit of enabling a large area of the note to be used for tactile effects without affecting the visual security image.

On the current series, the dots have been included to provide a tactile clue for the presence of genuine currency versus a flat counterfeit. Modification of the area layout could allow for a specific pattern to be included for each denomination. The dots are 1.0 mm in diameter and have a height above the background of 70 µm.

Page 104

Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

 

Watermark Images

The Japanese have introduced a set of special geometric watermark shapes in the corner of the note to give assistance in denomination. The watermark has a sharp visual profile that gives a clear image by transmission. The nature and location of the image changes with denomination.

Measurements taken from banknotes have shown that the lighter areas are 50 µm below the average height of the paper. Again this can be compared with the value of 400 µm for braille characters.

 

Machine-Identifiable Features

The Bank of Canada has a design similar to that of the United States in that it issues common-size dollar bills. When the current series of notes was being developed, particular attention was paid to the problem of the visually disabled population. In addition to using some large numerals and lettering, the bank decided to develop a small hand-held device to ensure a note could be positively identified.

The notes have been designed with specific, large colored patches in the intaglio pattern changing in location on each denomination. A detector was developed that is capable of assessing the presence or absence of the intaglio ink in specific places. By using a simple coding arrangement, it is possible to positively identify the denomination of each note. An audible message is given from the device for the benefit of blind people. Although the unit can discriminate among denominations in genuine currency, it is not to be regarded as an authentication device, as it can be confused by simple black patches drawn on genuine or counterfeit banknotes.

 

Summary of Features on Worldwide Currencies

The following table shows the major features contained in 171 different styles of banknotes around the world. The table is not exhaustive, as some countries issue more than one style of note (e.g., Scotland), and the varying political state of the world leads to formation of new countries where currency details are limited (e.g., the former Yugoslavia). The term “issuing authority” indicates that the entity described has permission to design and print currency but may not be a sovereign country. For example, the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland each issue banknotes exchangeable throughout the United Kingdom. All are considered issuing authorities, but not all are independent countries.

Some of the currencies described in Table D-1 are no longer issued but are included as examples of currency in circulation around the world. The number of denominations currently issued is included where known. When countries issue banknotes with new designs, the new

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Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

 

notes generally cocirculate with the old-design notes, which can result in as many as 20 different banknotes being legal tender at any one time.

 

Concluding Observations

It can be seen that a number of different approaches have been used to provide banknotes more suitable to the visually disabled population. However, no single approach has emerged as the standard for all notes worldwide. This has to do with issues of tradition as well as issues of viability.

 

References

 

Haslop, J.M. 1994. Personal communication to the Committee on Currency Features Usable by the Visually Impaired. August 1994.

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Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

Table D-1

Summary of Currency Features for Visually Disabled People Used in Currency from 171 Issuing Authorities Around the World

Denomination Differentiation Method

(Y = yes; N = no; S = some denominations)

Issuing Authority

Number of Denominations

Color

Size

Tactile Recognition Symbol

Large

Numeral

Afghanistan

6

Y

S

N

S

Albania

4

Y

Y

N

N

Algeria

4

Y

S

N

N

Angola

6

Y

Y

N

N

Argentina

7

Y

N

Y

Y

Armenia

6

Y

S

Y

N

Aruba

5

Y

N

Y

Y

Australia

5

Y

Y

N

S

Austria

6

Y

Y

Y

N

Bahamas

7

Y

N

N

Y

Bahrain

5

Y

S

N

N

Bangladesh

7

Y

Y

N

N

Barbados

6

Y

N

N

N

Belgium

6

Y

Y

Y

Y

Belize

6

Y

N

N

N

Bermuda

6

Y

N

N

N

Bolivia

5

Y

N

N

S

Botswana

5

Y

Y

N

S

Brazil

6

Y

N

N

S

Brunei

7

Y

Y

N

N

Bulgaria

5

Y

Y

Y

Y

Burundi

5

Y

Y

N

S

Cambodia

7

Y

Y

N

N

Cameroon

5

Y

Y

N

N

Canada

7

Y

N

N

Y

Page 107

Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

Denomination Differentiation Method

(Y = yes; N = no; S = some denominations)

Issuing Authority

Number of Denominations

Color

Size

Tactile Recognition Symbol

Large Numeral

Cape Verde

5

Y

Y

N

N

Cayman Islands

4

Y

N

N

N

Central African Republic

5

Y

S

N

N

Chad

5

Y

Y

N

N

Chile

4

Y

N

N

N

China

6

Y

S

Y

N

Colombia

7

Y

N

S

N

Comoros

3

Y

Y

N

N

Congo

5

Y

Y

N

N

Cook Islands

4

Y

N

N

N

Costa Rica

5

Y

N

N

N

Croatia

11

Y

S

Y

N

Cuba

7

Y

N

N

N

Cyprus

5

Y

Y

S

N

Czech Republic

6

Y

Y

Y

N

Denmark

5

Y

S

N

N

Djibouti

5

Y

Y

N

N

Dominican Republic

8

Y

N

N

N

Eastern Caribbean Territories

5

Y

N

N

N

Ecuador

9

Y

N

N

N

Egypt

6

Y

S

N

N

El Salvador

7

S

Y

N

N

England

4

Y

Y

Y

N

Equatorial Guinea

4

Y

Y

N

N

Estonia

7

Y

N

N

S

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Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

 

Denomination Differentiation Method

(Y = yes; N = no; S = some denominations)

Issuing Authority

Number of Denominations

Color

Size

Tactile Recognition Symbol

Large Numeral

Ethiopia

5

Y

Y

N

N

Falkland Islands

4

Y

N

N

N

Faroe Islands

7

Y

Y

N

N

Fiji

5

Y

Y

N

N

Finland

6

Y

N

N

N

France

5

Y

Y

N

S

French Territories in the Pacific

4

Y

Y

N

N

Gabon

5

Y

Y

N

N

Gambia

5

Y

Y

N

N

Germany

8

Y

Y

S

S

Ghana

6

Y

S

N

N

Gibraltar

5

Y

Y

N

N

Greece

5

Y

Y

N

N

Guatemala

7

Y

N

N

N

Guernsey

4

Y

Y

N

N

Guinea

6

Y

Y

N

N

Guinea-Bissau

6

Y

Y

N

N

Guyana

5

Y

N

N

N

Haiti

9

Y

S

N

N

Honduras

6

Y

Y

N

N

Hong Kong

5

Y

Y

N

N

Hungary

5

Y

N

N

N

Iceland

6

Y

Y

N

N

India

7

Y

S

N

N

Indonesia

7

Y

Y

N

N

Page 109

Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

 

Denomination Differentiation Method

(Y = yes; N = no; S = some denominations)

Issuing Authority

Number of Denominations

Color

Size

Tactile Recognition Symbol

Large Numeral

Iran

7

Y

Y

N

N

Iraq

6

Y

Y

N

N

Ireland

4

Y

Y

N

N

Israel

7

Y

N

Y

N

Italy

6

Y

Y

N

N

Jamaica

7

Y

S

N

N

Japan

6

Y

Y

N

N

Jersey

5

Y

Y

N

N

Jordan

5

Y

Y

N

N

Kazakstan

8

Y

S

N

N

Kenya

6

Y

Y

N

N

Korea (South)

4

Y

Y

N

N

Kuwait

5

Y

Y

N

N

Laos

5

Y

Y

N

N

Lebanon

9

Y

Y

N

N

Lesotho

5

Y

Y

N

N

Libya

5

Y

Y

N

N

Lithuania

6

Y

N

N

N

Luxembourg

3

Y

Y

N

N

Macao

6

Y

Y

N

N

Madagascar

6

Y

S

N

N

Malawi

6

Y

Y

N

N

Malaysia

8

Y

Y

S

N

Maldives

7

Y

N

N

N

Mali

5

Y

Y

N

N

Page 110

Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

 

Denomination Differentiation Method

(Y = yes; N = no; S = some denominations)

Issuing Authority

Number of Denominations

Color

Size

Tactile Recognition Symbol

Large Numeral

Malta

4

Y

Y

N

N

Man (Isle of)

4

Y

Y

N

N

Mauritania

4

S

Y

N

N

Mauritius

8

Y

Y

N

N

Mexico

8

Y

N

N

N

Mongolia

8

Y

Y

N

N

Morocco

4

Y

Y

S

N

Mozambique

6

Y

S

N

N

Myanmar

7

Y

Y

N

N

Macedonia

5

Y

N

N

N

Namibia

3

Y

Y

Y

N

Nepal

8

Y

Y

N

N

Netherlands

7

Y

Y

S

S

Netherlands Antilles

6

Y

N

Y

N

New Zealand

5

Y

Y

N

N

Nicaragua

9

Y

N

N

N

Nigeria

5

Y

N

N

N

Northern Ireland

5

Y

Y

N

N

Norway

4

Y

Y

N

N

Oman

9

Y

Y

N

N

Pakistan

7

Y

Y

N

N

Papua New Guinea

4

Y

S

N

N

Paraguay

7

Y

S

N

N

Peru

6

Y

S

S

N

Philippines

7

Y

N

N

N

Page 111

Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

 

Denomination Differentiation Method

(Y = yes; N = no; S = some denominations)

Issuing Authority

Number of Denominations

Color

Size

Tactile Recognition Symbol

Large Numeral

Poland

11

Y

N

N

S

Portugal

5

Y

Y

N

N

Qatar

6

Y

Y

N

N

Romania

7

Y

Y

N

N

Russia

7

Y

S

N

S

Rwanda

4

Y

Y

N

N

Saint Helena

4

Y

Y

N

N

Sao Tome and Principe

4

Y

Y

N

N

Saudi Arabia

6

Y

Y

N

N

Scotland

5

Y

S

N

N

Seychelles

4

Y

N

N

N

Sierra Leone

8

Y

N

N

N

Singapore

7

Y

Y

N

N

Slovenia

8

Y

Y

N

N

Solomon Islands

5

Y

Y

N

N

Somalia

5

Y

S

N

N

South Africa

3

Y

Y

Y

S

Spain

4

Y

Y

N

N

Sri Lanka

7

Y

Y

N

N

Sudan

7

Y

N

N

S

Surinam

6

Y

N

N

S

Swaziland

5

N

Y

N

N

Sweden

6

Y

Y

N

N

Switzerland

6

Y

Y

Y

Y

Syria

7

Y

Y

N

N

Page 112

Suggested Citation: “Appendix D: Features in Use Worldwide.” National Research Council. Currency Features for Visually Impaired People. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.

 

Denomination Differentiation Method

(Y = yes; N = no; S = some denominations)

Issuing Authority

Number of Denominations

Color

Size

Tactile Recognition Symbol

Large Numeral

Taiwan

6

Y

S

N

N

Tanzania

6

Y

Y

N

N

Thailand

7

Y

Y

N

N

Tonga

6

Y

N

N

N

Trinidad and Tobago

5

Y

N

N

N

Tunisia

3

Y

Y

N

N

Turkey

6

Y

Y

N

N

Uganda

8

Y

S

N

N

United Arab Emirates

6

Y

Y

N

N

United States of America

6

N

N

N

N

Uruguay

7

Y

N

Y

N

Vanuatu

4

Y

Y

N

N

Venezuela

6

Y

N

N

N

Vietnam

11

Y

Y

N

N

West African Monetary Union

5

Y

Y

N

N

Western Samoa

4

Y

Y

N

N

Yemen

6

Y

Y

N

N

Yugoslavia

8

Y

Y

N

N

Zaire

8

Y

Y

N

N

Zambia

5

Y

Y

N

N

Zimbabwe

4

Y

Y

N

N

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