Free Currency Reader for People with Visual Impairments
By Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources Legal Team
Although it may be more convenient to carry paper money in your wallet than a jumble of coins, the uniformity of American dollar bills creates challenges for individuals with vision loss who are unable to tell one denomination from another. One dollar bills and one hundred dollar bills weigh the same amount, are the same size, and are made of the same material, which means that someone with visual impairments may find it impossible to tell them apart. Fortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) will provide a free iBill® Talking Banknote Identifier to eligible blind or visually impaired people who request one.
To use the iBill, someone can insert a bill into the device and press a button on the side, and the device will identify the denomination. The iBill can announce the denomination in a clear natural voice, a pattern of tones, or a pattern of vibrations for privacy. The vibration mode also allows people who have vision and hearing impairments to identify their currency. The iBill is about the size of a car key fob and uses a single AAA battery, which is included.
The iBill can identify all U.S. paper money currently in circulation: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. However, even though the iBill can identify your money, it cannot tell you tell you if it is counterfeit or keep track of how much you have. In addition, it may not be able to identify a bill that is in poor physical condition.
To request an iBill, individuals must complete and mail an application, which is available to download from www.bep.gov. You can also call the BEP toll-free at 844-815-9388 to ask for an application to be mailed to you. The application requires verification of a visual impairment signed by a medical professional or issued by another federal, state, or local agency. Once a visual impairment is verified, an iBill will be delivered in approximately eight weeks.
In addition to the iBill, there are some smartphone apps that can determine a bill’s denomination. EyeNote is a free iPhone application developed by the BEP to help blind or visually impaired consumers identify U.S. currency. Eyenote uses a phone’s camera to scan U.S. currency and then announces its value back to the user. The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store.
For Android users, the IDEAL Currency Identifier uses text-to-speech voice and image recognition technology to read a bill and tell users its denomination. IDEAL does not rely on a connection to the internet. The app is available as a free download on Google Play.