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Free Device Helps Blind, Visually Impaired Handle Money

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- After decades of demands from the blind and visually impaired, the U.S. Treasury has come up with a way to make currency accessible: It's a device that reads and announces a bill's denomination -- and it's available for free.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing Deputy Director Len Olijar says the bill readers are the second part of a three-pronged strategy. The first was putting larger, high contrast numerals on bills as they were redesigned starting in 1999, and the ultimate goal is to add a tactile feature so each bill feels different. But he says that's still in research and development, and it will take years to phase in.

"A $100 note in circulation lasts 15 years and a $20 note lasts eight years, so notes with tactile features and non-tactile features are going to co-circulate for some time," Olijar says. "The reader device is something that will enable them to denominate currency now."

Olijar says each reader costs the Treasury $60, but they're free to the blind and visually impaired.

But not everyone is crazy about the device. Gaye Vile, who trains people to use them at Bucks County Association for the Blind, can't wait for those new tactile bills.

"I guess for somebody that's alone and totally blind it's better than nothing," Vile says, "but for all the money our government put into it, I wouldn't get that excited."

There are also free apps available for iPhone and Android users that read bills.

Click here to access an application for application for the reader:


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