Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Free Bill Readers Offered to the Blind and Visually Impaired

One of the most frequently asked questions I get as a blind person is how do you identifyPerson folding 5 dollar bill your money? Since US paper currency is printed with the same color ink and each denomination has the same shape and texture it is very difficult to determine differences. This challenge reduces the level of financial independence for those with vision loss. It also creates opportunities to be taken advantage of by dishonest people.

For a long time now people who are blind and/or visually impaired have had to find a variety of ways to identify their paper printed money. Some have depended on trustworthy sighted people to help determine their one dollar bills from their fives, tens orPerson using iPhone app to read 20 dollar bill twenties. Others have used accessible wallets with multiple slots to place each denomination in. or they might use a device such as a
hand-held bill reader for identification. Yet, more recently others have used accessible apps on their iPhone or smartphone to scan and read their cash.

But just last month the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing announced that they would be providing free bill readers to those with vision loss. This is great news because it will allow the visually impaired to be more financially independent and have equal access to their paper money. The BEP will process requests in two phases:

The first phase will be a pilot starting on September 2, 2014 in collaboration with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). All library patrons can pre-order their readers. This will allow BEAP to test its ordering and distribution processes and better gauge demand.

Person placing money in a walletThe second phase will be a national rollout. Any US citizen who is blind or visually impaired will be able to order a bill reader beginning January 2, 2015. Individuals who are not NLS patrons must submit an application, signed by a competent authority who can certify visual impairment.

If you are interested in applying for a currency reader device or learning more about BEP’s access program go to this link:


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Comment by Gordoncealf; November 25, 2016 5:51am

It has to be followed precisely. overboard

Comment by overboard; October 24, 2016 5:59pm

I am looking for the application to fill out for the money reader for the visually impaired. I read that they were available at no cost and was looking for the application!

Comment by C.S Tarbutton; March 02, 2016 6:57pm

I have been legally blind for the past eight years and have had several problems with handling paper money. Since I live alone, I would love to receive this valuable tool.

Comment by Jerry Jackson; October 12, 2014 1:01am

Please place me on the list for the reader. I have been blind since youth but have retired as a city administrator for 40 years. Thanks

Comment by Rob Mattson; October 07, 2014 3:47pm

Thank you for this information. I have been blind since childhood, but have retired after a 42-year career as a city administrator. I would welcome if my name is on the list to receive the device.

Comment by Rob Mattson; October 07, 2014 2:17am

Thank you for this information. I have been blind since childhood, but have retired after a 42-year career as a city administrator. I would welcome if my name is on.

Comment by Rob Mattson; October 07, 2014 2:14am

Thanks everyone for your comments and I have to agree. I was very excited when I got the news. Even though I don't deal with paper money that much anymore...I have moved over to more plastic...I am still very happy that this change has taken place.

Comment by Empish; August 11, 2014 3:22pm

In my sixty plus years of knowing and working with the blind, I have seen technology open doors and enrich lives, but this money thing has always been a problem. So glad it is at last being dealt with. Hurrah!

Comment by June Willis; August 07, 2014 4:33pm

This is good news for the blind and visually impaired community. This is another tool to at to our chest of independence.

Comment by Melissa; August 07, 2014 12:33pm

Congratulations to the American Council of the Blind (ACB) are in order. It was the successful lawsuit they initiate against the Bureau of Engraving and Printing several years ago which forced the government to initiate the process leading to this temporary solution. The United States is the only developed country which does not offer an accessible way for people who are blind to easily differentiate paper currency. So, this is indeed a wonderful and welcoming development.

Comment by Anisio Correia; August 07, 2014 2:39am