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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Bucks Stop Here: Keeping Track of Your Cash

Money is an important part of life in this day and age and even though the use of electronic money, such as debit cards, is becoming more and more widespread, it is still very important to be able to identify cash.

Coins can be identified by feeling the size and edges. Quarters are the largest of the commonly-used coins, followed by nickels, pennies and then dimes. You can also tell quarters and dimes by their ridges, and nickels and pennies by their smooth edges.

Bills can be identified by using a special folding scheme. One such scheme is to place ones outstretched in your wallet, fives folded once lengthwise, tens folded once widthwise, and twenties folded twice, once lengthwise and once widthwise. Larger bills and two-dollar bills can be placed in separate compartments of your wallet or purse.

You don't have to use this folding scheme. There are others out there you can learn or you can invent your own. Just remember that it is important to be consistent-- always use the same method so that you don't get confused.

Another possibility is to braille your bills. MaxiAids has a product called the "Click Pocket Money Brailler" that makes brailling money quick and painless. Just insert the edge of the bill into this device and squeeze. It marks denominations of 1,5,10,20,50, and 100 dollars. The Money Brailler is about 1 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long and comes with a chain to attach it to your key ring. Go to for ordering information:

A high-tech solution is the Noteteller 2 manufactured by Brytech, Inc. This is a hand-held portable device that scans bills and announces their denomination in either English or Spanish. It recognizes both the old and new US currency designs. They also make a note reader that recognizes Canadian currency and announces in either English or French. 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. See Brytech's website for more details:

If you have text reader software on your home computer, you may be able to use your PC to recognize the denominations of your paper money. Open Book is a package that includes "Buckscan", a program that identifies bills. The K1000 package from Kurzweil also recognizes denominations of currency. For more information on Open Book, visit the Freedom Scientific web site: For more information on Kurzweil:


Orbit Research has created the iBill, an affordable Talking Banknote Identifier for the blind and the visually impaired.

At about a third of the cost of existing devices, the iBill offers ease of use and accuracy of the identification of money.

The iBill is an exceptionally convenient and affordable solution that can be used by each and every blind or visually impaired individual. Measuring just 3 inches by 1.6 inches by 0.7 inches, the ultra-slim and compact "key-fob" design provides the ultimate in convenience, allowing it to be carried unobtrusively in a pocket, purse, clipped to the belt or attached to a keychain or lanyard. Among the features that set it apart from other such devices are the extremely high accuracy (better than 99.9%) and the near-instantaneous speed (less than one second in most cases) with which it identifies banknotes.

The iBill is designed with the sole purpose of providing the simplest, fastest and most accurate means to identify U.S. banknotes. Its unique ergonomic design permits easy and intuitive use without the need for any training or practice. Upon insertion of a banknote into the device, its denomination is identified at the press of a button. Based on the user's preference, the denomination is announced by a clear and natural voice, or by tone or vibration for privacy. The unit identifies all U.S. banknotes in circulation and recognizes them in any orientation. Banknotes in poor physical condition are indicated as unidentifiable and are not misread. The unit is also upgradeable to recognize new banknote designs.

The iBill achieves all of this while operating on a single, commonly available AAA battery which lasts for over a year with typical use. Its durable construction and sealed design ensure trouble-free use. The unit is backed by a one-year warranty from Orbit Research, and toll-free customer support.

Specializing in the development and manufacture of products for people with disabilities, Orbit Research's mission is to employ cutting-edge technology to develop innovative and affordable products that are essential for an independent and productive lifestyle. Click this link to learn more:

Mary Scroggs was left blind in one eye and with limited sight in the other after a car crash several years ago.

Blindness or any form of vision loss can present many challenges especially when it comes to money.

Scroggs has developed a website called in hopes of raising awareness about the plight of those who have trouble seeing.

Scroggs says braille currency could carry certain markings for those who are visually impaired.

"We are one of the few countries on earth where money can't be determined by touch," says Scroggs.

She is hoping the website will generate renewed nationwide attention but realizes she may be facing an uphill battle.

To visit, click here:

You may also find this video, from the Washington State School for the Blind helpful. If using a screen reader, press space or enter on the first button to play.

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