The Problems with Relying on a Bill-Reading Machine

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I have owned a bill-reading machine (the Note Teller) for more than four years. While I have found using the Note Teller to be a good way to keep track of most of my paper currency, I know I am lucky. Currently, the new Note Teller 2 retails for $270—a price that may be beyond the means of many blind Americans. In fact, if I had not been given my Note Teller as a gift, I do not believe I would own it either.

During the time I have owned my Note Teller, I have had many conversations with blind friends who cannot understand why I rely so heavily on my Note Teller. Until recently, I used to answer those challenges by acknowledging that relying on the Note Teller, like every other system that blind people have to rely on, is not a perfect way of identifying money, because it cannot identify the newly redesigned bills without software upgrades and (like a vending machine) it can only read bills that are entered in the proper orientation or which are not wrinkled. However, I took pride in the fact that I wasn’t dependent on sighted people to identify most of my currency. Also, I wasn’t forced to strictly adhere to a folding system. As long as I kept my currency reasonably wrinkle-free and avoided the newer bills, I could rely on my Note Teller to distinguish the bills for me.

But three weeks ago, I discovered the biggest problem with relying on a machine as my primary source of currency identification: suddenly my Note Teller stopped working. I have tried everything from changing the battery to cleaning out the machine, and so far, I have not been able to get it working. So, I have gone back to using my own folding system and relying on sighted people for the original identification. Of course, I could send my Note Teller to the manufacturer to have the software upgraded for $85, but if that doesn’t work I will have to decide if I can really afford to $270 dollars for a new Note Teller.

Over the last few weeks, I have not missed fighting with my Note Teller—trying to get it to identify bills, not knowing if the problem is the bill being too wrinkled or too new. While I appreciate not having to put stacks of paper money under heavy objects in an attempt to flatten out the wrinkles, I still miss my Note Teller. There was something nice about being able to verify the information that a sighted person had given me or being able to identify money that I had dropped.

Until America has paper currency that is more user friendly, I will have to get used to using some combination of these less-than-perfect systems of bill identification. While I am confident that I will be able to use money to purchase what I need, I am frustrated by the fact that I am being asked to spend hundreds of dollars or to rely on the kindness of strangers just to do something as fundamental as knowing how much change I am receiving.

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5 Responses to “The Problems with Relying on a Bill-Reading Machine”

  1. Shirley Says:

    I think everyone who owns a bill reader should use it in public. Most of us have no idea what bill readers are or how to use them, what it takes to make sure you have the right amount of change. This would help educate us. I myself have never seen anyone use a Note Teller. This would bring to everyone’s attention what you have to go through. Nowadays people are in a hurry and don’t have time for someone to run each bill into a machine. People need to see it. Sighted people judge others by watching them. It is also easier for a sighted person to say a Note Teller should be good enough for the Blind or Visually Impaired–at least they have something–when they’ve never seen what it’s really like to use one. If you start using them and slowing things down because the Note Teller won’t read the bill and you have to put it in the machine a couple of times, sighted people will get fed up with this and then things will change. We have to interfere with their lives, show them that the note reader is not practical or functional. This is how a sighted person is going to learn how important changing the paper currency is for everyone. I wish I had one; I would use it all of the time

  2. abled body: can do done different » Blog Archive » Making Moolah More Accessible Says:

    […] and require the user to enter the bills properly. Like vending machines, a bill reader will reject bills that are too old or wrinkled. There is also a peripheral issue, here: Some people I know, my 64-year-old father included, have […]

  3. Deshawn Grimaud Says:

    Appreciate you for taking the time to explain this subject. I’m pleased I stumbled upon your site on this matter. I’m doing research on this topic right now and this assisted me a lot. Keep up the valuable work.

  4. Making Moolah More Accessible Abled Body Says:

    […] I’m a big believer in assistive technology, and relying on the “kindness of strangers” isn’t very high-tech. Nor is the the “origami” solution, where the blind person folds their currency into different shapes and sizes in order to identify it. Many blind people do use bill-reading machines, such as the Note Teller 2 from Brytech, which costs about $300 and is the size of an iPhone. However, these machines have an 80 percent accuracy rate, and require the user to enter the bills properly. Like vending machines, a bill reader will reject bills that are too old or wrinkled. […]

  5. Making Moolah More Accessible | abledbody Says:

    […] I’m a big believer in assistive technology, and relying on the “kindness of strangers” isn’t very high-tech. Nor is the the “origami” solution, where the blind person folds their currency into different shapes and sizes in order to identify it. Many blind people do use bill-reading machines, such as the Note Teller 2 from Brytech, which costs about $300 and is the size of an iPhone. However, these machines have an 80 percent accuracy rate, and require the user to enter the bills properly. Like vending machines, a bill reader will reject bills that are too old or wrinkled. […]

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