‘Most don’t, but some cheat’

The thought that with just a quick touch of her fingers she will be able to identify currency like a sighted person excites Abla Al Kaabi.
Abla Al Kaabi began to lose her vision shortly after finishing University. Lee Hoagland/The National
Abla Al Kaabi began to lose her vision shortly after finishing University. Lee Hoagland/The National

DUBAI // The thought that with just a quick touch of her fingers she will be able to identify currency like a sighted person excites Abla Al Kaabi and means an end to her time-consuming daily routine of folding and separating notes.

Every day Ms Al Kaabi, who works with the Emirates Association for the Blind and is vision impaired, folds notes to help differentiate between denominations and places these in different sections of her wallet.

The UAE Central Bank’s plan to introduce Braille features on notes has raised hopes among blind residents that they can be truly independent.

Ms al Kaabi requires assistance from friends, relatives or her driver to let her know if the notes she has been handed back are the correct ones after she visits a shop on her own.

“I can see a bit because I’m not totally blind. I learnt from a friend in university to stack notes in different sections,” said Ms Al Kaabi, who has retinitis pigmentosa, which causes gradual loss of vision. Her vision began deteriorating in university, starting with a reduced ability to see at night.

“If I don’t organise my notes every day then I cannot use the notes myself. So when I give money I know what I have given. But when people return money I have to ask my family if it’s right. Mostly people don’t cheat, but some people cheat.”

A restaurant delivery man once passed off a Dh10 note as Dh20.

“One time you may leave it, but that is not good because they may take more from you, so Braille notes will really help us,” she said.

The timeline on introducing the notes has not been announced. Initially Dh100 and Dh50 notes with Braille features may be introduced before extending this to all notes.

Smartphone apps also help to identify the denomination when a note is held in front of the camera.

But Mr Ahmed Karim, an expatriate who is blind and works as an administration co-ordinator, said this was not always effective. Nothing compares to instantly identifying notes, he said.

“Money reader apps on the smartphone are good, but I have to show the notes one by one so it takes time. And sometimes notes will not be recognised if someone writes on it, so then it’s a nightmare. Braille notes will benefit us a lot.”

In July, when the UAE Central Bank announced that it had begun the process to include Braille signs in notes, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, tweeted: “I call on the UAE Central Bank to use Braille script in banknotes to make it easier for those without the blessing of eyesight.”

The plan has received widespread support.

“Not many banks have come out with this Braille initiative, it is a welcome gesture,” said Sudhir Shetty, chief operating officer of the UAE Exchange

“It will have all the security features of a normal bill and in addition there will be Braille markings.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae

Published: December 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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