In the latest edition of “Access World” the American Foundation for the Blind reviewed the Note Teller 2 money identifier. According to the review the machine was only able to correctly identify bills 80% of the time.
Archive for the ‘How We Use Money Now’ Category
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.
The most common method that those of us who are blind use to distinguish bills is to fold them differently. Different people use different techniques; there is no right or wrong way of doing it. I leave my $1’s unfolded, fold $5’s in half the short way, and fold $10’s the long way. My wallet has two sections for cash, so I put $20’s in a separate section and leave them unfolded.
Folding currency often allows us to handle cash reasonably well, but it has serious limitations. Before we can fold a bill, we need to find out its denomination by asking a sighted person or using a machine. This often means that we cannot independently verify that we are being handed the correct change for a purchase, for example. This may be somewhat less of an issue in a crowded store where others in line might notice if we are being shortchanged, but in other situations, such as in taxicabs, there may be no way to check because there may be no witnesses around when it comes time to pay.
Our currency-folding systems are also very vulnerable to tampering by other people. I once had three bills in my bureau drawer that I thought were $100’s, but I went to use two of them at different times and was told that they were $1’s. I suspect that someone who was living with me took the $100’s out of my bureau and replaced them with $1’s, since she had done other things that made me inclined to suspect that, but I cannot be sure, since it is possible that the cashier was lying to me or that someone I asked to identify the bills might have kept them and given me back $1’s in their place. One may point out that I should have immediately gone to the bank with the money rather than keeping it in my house, and in retrospect I would agree with that. Nevertheless, this story does present issues that sighted people would not have–and that I would not have either, if I could distinguish a $1 from a $100.