By Curtis Chong
During recent months, more affordable and usable technologies have become available to enable a blind person to identify paper currency without having to rely upon the assistance of someone who can see. While folding different denominations in different ways continues to be an excellent way for a blind person to manage paper currency nonvisually, there are those times when it is extremely helpful to be able to identify individual bills–particularly when someone has just handed you a stack of bills without telling you what each one of them was.
The iBill from Orbit Research, for $99, offers a reasonable solution to this problem–particularly, if a person does not have an Apple iPhone. However, for the growing number of blind people who have adopted the iPhone as their mobile phone of choice, I know about two options: EyeNote™, developed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch family of devices and Money Reader, developed by LookTel Products. EyeNote is provided through the Apple iTunes Store at no charge, and Money Reader costs $1.99.
The iBill was the first currency identifier that I used on a regular basis, and it worked very well for me. The only problem I experienced with the iBill was that it was sometimes difficult to insert older bills into the scanning slot. But it was always accurate and responsive, giving me a reading within two seconds. Also, I appreciated that I could operate the iBill using a single AAA battery that I could purchase from just about anywhere.
Enter the iPhone. Once I made the financial investment to get one ($200 for me), I did a side-by-side comparison of the LookTel Money Reader and the EyeNote™ apps. What I found was that the LookTel Money Reader worked flawlessly every time I used it, giving me a reading almost instantaneously. On the other hand, the EyeNote™ app failed more times than it succeeded. Free isn’t necessarily better.