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BSP's effort to serve a hidden population.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno's announcement on Wednesday about impending changes to our peso bills was a welcome news to a particular group of people that stands to benefit from this development: The blind and visually impaired. That's because the Philippine banknotes to be released in the first quarter of 2020 will have additional security features and will be helpful to the elderly and visually impaired.

As Diokno announced, the new peso bills will be the first that allow blind people to distinguish one denomination from another-something they can't do now, since all our paper currency is the same size, shape and feel. That's why it's impossible for blind Filipinos to identify or count money without the assistance of another person.

'The upgraded security thread and anti-copying and anti-scanning features will improve counterfeit deterrence. While the incorporation of tactile marks is meant for the elderly and visually impaired and is part of our commitment to promote broad and convenient access to high-quality financial services to the Filipino people,' Diokno said during the launch of New Generation banknotes that bear his signature.

Diokno, who succeeded former BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. who succumbed to cancer in February, launched the banknotes during the Central Bank's celebration of its 70th anniversary as the country's central monetary authority and nearly four months after he took his oath of office on March 6. Improvements on the New Generation banknotes include the upgraded windowed security thread with unique color and design per denomination, anti-copying and anti-scanning features and incorporation of tactile marks.

An article in'How Other Countries Help the Blind Tell Money Denominations Apart'-gives an idea how governments print blind-friendly money. It said the Australian dollar tackles the accessibility issue in a very simple method, by making larger denominations not simply larger, but longer. They also have strong colors and contrasts for the visually impaired.

'The euro banknotes were designed with heavy input from Blind organizations and have a very simple distinguishing feature: big bills are big; little bills are little. The notes have some intaglio printing, which gives them relief marks that can be felt. The pound 200 and pound 500 bills have special tactile marks on them as well, for added security and assuredness when dealing with such large amounts,' the article said.

In Asia, Hong Kong's currency has three of the hallmark features typically seen: intaglio printing, different sizes and different colors. Nobody is mistaking a HK$1,000 for a HK$500. Japan uses special intaglio-printed tactile marks and each bill is a different size, making it easy for blind Japanese people to identify and count money.

The Department of Health said over 2 million people nationwide are blind or suffering from poor vision. In 2017, it said an estimated 332,150 Filipinos are bilaterally blind while the number of persons with bilateral low vision has reached 2,179,733. More people are expected to have significant vision loss because of aging and the prevalence of diabetes in the country.

Though blind Filipinos have figured out work-arounds, such as methods of folding bills to tell them apart, challenges around our peso bills have long been an unexpressed issue. That's why our hidden population of blind and visually impaired welcomed with joy Diokno's announcement that our new currency will allow them to tell peso bills apart by touch.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jul 5, 2019
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