MUMBAI: The visually disabled persons -- those suffering from various degrees of blindness -- are finding the new currency notes 'unfriendly', because they are difficult to recognise by touch.
Lack of adequate embossing or engraving on the new Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 notes makes it difficult to differentiate and recognise them for someone with impaired eyesight, said an official of National Association for the Blind (NAB) here.
"After the decision (of scrapping the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes) was announced in November, I approached the Union Government to ensure that new notes have some embossing, engraving or inscription which can be sensed by fingers.
"I was told this demand will be addressed, but to date, no steps have been taken to address our problem," said Joaquim Rapose, national secretary of NAB.
"I was also told (later) that new batch of notes will have necessary changes, but we have not noticed any change so far," said Rapose.
As per the State Development and Finance Corporation for the Disabled, there are 5.74 lakh persons with visual disability in Maharashtra.
"The government data says there are 80 lakh people in the country who are visually disabled. Unfortunately their issues and woes are not taken into consideration when printing new notes," he said.
"The old notes had proper embossing. The visually disabled persons could differentiate them. With new notes, the size is changed and there are no visually disabled-friendly markings," Rapose said.
Dr. Sam Taraporewala, head of the department at Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged here, said, "Unlike European countries or the US, we still do not have currency recognisers (note-reading machines). It is true that the new currency notes have been creating a problem for the visually disabled persons."
Shrikant Jadhav, who suffers from 100 per cent blindness, said, "I have been using notes daily for the last 15 years. Suddenly the size is changed and the new notes are not at all friendly for us. I cannot ask some stranger to recognise the note for me. I am vulnerable when I am travelling alone by auto rickshaw or taxi. The digital payment system for public transport is not much useful to people like me."
Teachers at schools for the visually disabled agree. "We are trying to train our students....people approach us to find out how to differentiate new notes. Some could learn it, but most of the disabled persons are struggling because there is no embossing or engraving," said a teacher from a Mumbai-based school, speaking on the condition of anonymity.