Tuesday 26 March, 2019

New Eastern Caribbean bank notes to be accessible to the blind

Are paper banknotes soon to go out of circulation?

It’s a question worth considering because as of May or June of this year, the twenty and fifty dollar paper bills will not be issued by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in their present format. The new banknotes will be made from a compound known as polymer.

These polymer banknotes will be incorporated with many security features not available in paper banknotes. In fact, such notes are said to last significantly longer than paper notes, causing a decrease in environmental impact and a reduced cost of production and replacement.

The polymer notes that may soon hit Saint Lucia will be incorporated with blind recognition features meaning persons stricken with blindness would be able, by feeling them, to discern the note's value, meaning whether they are $20 or $50 bills.

The Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association (SLBWA) earlier this week gave a glowing welcome to this new and historic initiative by the ECCB to introduce into circulation the polymer banknotes.

The SLBWA is also pleased that the ECCB officials found it appropriate to engage the organization as a key stakeholder ahead of its own unveiling of a campaign launch to introduce the new currency notes in the near future.

Executive Director of the Blind Welfare Association, Anthony Avril, and President of the Executive Counsel, Glen Simon were among five representatives who attended the meeting.  Other members were: Second Vice President, Jazzy Smith (Visually Impaired employee of Gros Islet RC Church), Carmina Espeleta (SLBWA Administrative Finance Assistant) and former Executive Council member, Yasmine Houson, a Blind employee of CIBC First Caribbean Bank.

Avril described the move as “seminal to global, regional and local efforts to promote the empowerment, inclusion and accessibility of blind and visually impaired persons to meet the standards enjoyed by their sighted counterparts. Moreover, empowering individuals with capacity to verify hard printed money bills independently, meets a fundamental requirement of Democracy,” he said.

Asked what he admired most about the ECCB initiative, Simon explained that the target population would not have to know braille to identify the new denominations and the public in general, especially persons who conduct business at night, may find learning the tactile features of the denominations very useful.

The SLBWA team further praised ECCB for this inclusive and indelible contribution, on behalf of print disabled citizens of the Organization of East Caribbean States (OECS).

Meanwhile, the ECCB branch office here noted that the $10 and $100 polymer bills will be introduced in circulation after the $20 and $50 dollar bills. The $5 note will be introduced into circulation much later, maybe by 2020.

This means that paper banknotes and polymer banknotes will be in circulation side by side in countries where the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank banknotes are legal tender, until the paper notes fade away due to its non-issuance by the Central Bank.

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