Thursday, December 14, 2006

Portable, Speaking Currency Reader for the Blind

No, there isn't one...


When I first heard the story of advocates for the blind suggesting that paper money be made more user-friendly for blind people I thought the idea was so odd it would go away. That same day a blind person called a local talk show and affirmed my thinking, that she had been getting along just fine for decades, thanks, and it wasn't necessary as far as she was concerned. And she owned and operated her own business, for crying out loud!

The story has "legs" now that a judge has given it life, so the blog world is off and running, mostly rooting for the underdogs, railing against the vending machine industry and government dolts as stubborn, stupid and uncaring.

Sorry, but I have to come down on the unpopular side of this one. This is a problem looking for a technological solution, not a reinvention of the, printing press.

Machines read paper money as it is.

If technology can make cameras, TV's and phones small enough to fit into an ear or a pocket, then why cannot there be a portable currency reader that speaks? Greeting cards can sing and speak. Phones can play music. Jeez! This is a no-brainer. For the price of redesigning the whole mint we could furnish every blind person who wants one a device for every place one might be needed, personal or private. Heck, they might even be disposable. Will somebody please start thinking out of the box?

A portable speaking currency reader is the answer.

This is a great opportunity for the right entrepreneur. Failing that, then let's follow up with a political remedy.

Don't like gizmos? What then shall we do about hearing aids, canes, walkers, motorized wheel chairs, dental bridges and corrective lenses? (Then there's arch supports, key chains, nail clippers, dental floss, CD players, GPS toys, smoke get the idea. Gizmos are not a mark of punishment. They are a means of convenience to those who want or need them.)

That's my two cents worth. I doubt it will catch on.
Not sexy enough. Just old-fashioned pragmatism from an old guy blogging.

Two minutes later, and I stand corrected. There already is a device.

The Note Teller is a very useful currency reader for blind and visually impaired people that reads both old and new series U.S. paper currency. This battery-powered device uses patented optical sensing and image technology to scan, read and announce the denomination of paper money in English and Spanish and includes simple instructions on audio cassette, in large-print and Braille. It features adjustable volume, includes a headphone jack for privacy and announces when the 9-volt battery needs replacement. An enhanced model is available for hearing-impaired users that provides sequences of vibration pulses to indicate the denomination.


J.J. said...

As a blind adult, I definitely agree with you and the minority on this. All the lawsuit does is make blind people look bad by assuming that we need accomidations for everything in life. The only thing that bothers me is the high price of the Note Teller and other similar units. Mind you, I basically trust everyone and haven't resorted to such a device, yet. There is also free software from Kurzweil that lets you identify bills using a scanner.

liuxu said...

In fact, a separate device in not necessary. A camera phone is good enough to read notes. Check out this video demo:

by the way, the link to seems to be broken.

Hoots said...

Thanks, liuxu, for dropping by. (Incidentally, it's December 2007, almost a year to the day after the post was published. I had forgotten but Google remembered.)
The issue seems to have vanished so I guess common sense and technology have prevailed. And the camera/cell phone info is great. Technology seems to have no limits. Yesterday I heard about a phone-based feature that one can dial and send a text message or email by speaking. The service makes a transcript of your spoken word and sends it to your pre-selected list of recipients.