The fifty dollar note will join the five and ten dollar notes in the ranks of inclusive currency, with the introduction of a new tactile note.
The accessible fifty dollar note will boast four braille dots, positioned on each long edge of the note.
The Reserve Bank of Australia will release the note into circulation next week, however, people living in Melbourne were the first to feel the note’s new tactile feature on Monday.
Vision Australia has been campaigning for tactile features on all banknotes for a number of years, alongside a petition from New South Wales client Connor McLeod.
Chief Executive Officer of Vision Australia, Ron Hooton says despite the popular push towards a cashless society, the fifty dollar note will still have a significant impact on more than 350,000 Australians who are vision impaired.
“Even though cash is being used less frequently in transactions, there are still many purchasing situations where people want to use cash,” he explains.
“The tactile feature allows people who are blind or have low vision to pay with and receive cash without the assistance of others or a device.”
Chris Edwards attended the launch yesterday and was one of the first Australians to feel the new fifty dollar note.
He acknowledges the importance of the tactile notes in easing anxiety and apprehension when using currency, for people who are also blind.
“I’m confident with the $5 and $10 in purchasing a cup of coffee in cafe, but the $50 will allow me to feel confident in paying for a meal with my family or a round of drinks with friends.”
Mr Edwards says the new fifty dollar note is helping “level the playing field.”
“It’s a step forward to allow people to do things at shops and cafes in a way that’s similar to people who are sighted.”
He also explains the other great thing about the banknotes is they are designed for every person who is blind or vision impaired, not just braille users.
“It’s always been a problem. If someone handed you a single note it was very difficult to tell what sort of note it was, unless you had a group of notes and then it was a process of elimination based on size.”
A major step forward in accessibility, Mr Edwards also commends the high and low contrast numbers for people with low vision.
In charge of Policy, Accessibility and Client Consultation at the Royal Society for the Blind (RSB), Tony Starkey says the RSB has worked with the Reserve Bank of Australia for many years regarding tactile and visual identification of coins and notes and says the organisation is “pleased with what has been provided.”
“Identifying a $5 [and] $10 at the moment is quite easy and when the $50 comes out with the four dots I cannot see any problems,” he says.
Interestingly, Assistant Governor of Reserve Bank of Australia, Lindsay Boulton says the tactile features on all new notes will also serve in preventing counterfeiting.
“The new notes contain the same world-leading security benefits similar to those on the new $5 and $10 banknotes issued over the past two years as part of the upgrade of Australia’s banknotes.”
Treasurer of Australia the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP is amazed at how far currency has come since the Australia’s first banknotes were issued in 1913.
“This latest and important upgrade not only marks a hugely significant step towards equal access to society for people who are blind or have low vision, but also incorporates new, innovative security features that further protect against counterfeiting,” he says.
Australia’s first published Aboriginal author and inventor David Unaipon and the first female member of the Australian parliament Edith Cowan will still grace the note’s artwork.