Cool Currency Apps for the Blind and Visually Impaired

by on January 25, 2013 · 36 comments

One of the best aspects of tech is how it can be used to help people with challenges. Tech such as Immersion Reading on the Kindle and SAM VIBE Internet Radio have opened up new worlds for people with vision issues.

For people who are blind or visually impaired, counting money can be an immense challenge. Unlike many other countries, US currency is uniform in size. The $100 bill is the exact same size as the $1, making cash transactions extremely difficult for people who with vision issues. Even in other countries, identifying currency can present problems for people with visually impairments.

When I first started practicing law, I visited a courthouse in Tampa, Florida with a newsstand operated by a man who was blind. When I asked another lawyer how the man could work there without being swindled every day, the lawyer told me that the blind man said his daughter counted the money every night and that he usually came out ahead. Seeing that man working at the courthouse gave me faith in humanity.

But for those who don’t want to depend upon the kindness of strangers, tech can help. These apps help people identify money using smartphones, tablets and computers to announce the denominations of currency. These apps don’t need an Internet connection to work and they don’t identify counterfeit bills.

IDEAL Currency Identifier

 

IDEAL Currency Identifier is an Android app that scans US currency and then speaks the denomination of the bill. To use the app, place the bill on a flat surface under good light. Then open the app and hold the phone over the bill so that it appears in the frame. The app will then announce the denomination of the bill and whether it scanned the front or back of the bill.

Here is a video showing how it works:

The app works on US currency since 1993 and was developed in collaboration with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing: U.S. Department of the Treasury and National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research: U.S. Department of Education.

IDEAL Currency Identifier is available for Android devices running 4.0 and higher (Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean) and is free at Google Play.

LookTel Money Reader

LookTel Money Reader is an app that works on mobile Apple devices such as iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch as well as Mac computers running OSX 10.6.6 or later. This app recognizes currency and speaks the denominations for:

  • US Dollar
  • Euro
  • British Pound
  • Canadian Dollar
  • Australian Dollar

The currency denomination can be spoken in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Polish, Russian, Korean, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Japanese, Greek, Hungarian, and Mandarin.

Check out this demo video to see LookTel in action:

LookTel is available for $9.99 in the iTunes App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and  in the Mac App Store for Mac computers using OS X 10.6.6 or later.

Bottom Line

Tech can help people overcome challenges and make the world a more accessible place. People who are blind or visually impaired can become more independent by using these apps to identify currency.

Do you know anyone who might benefit from these apps? Have you seen how tech can help people overcome challenges? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!

* Image of currency by Images Money

Comments on this entry are closed.

Sapna January 25, 2013 at 8:05 am

HI Carolyn

Great post!

Tech people are really helping the people with the disabilities by developing such cool apps.

Thanks for sharing these.

Sapna

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2013 at 8:10 am

Hi Sapna, Thanks so much. I hope this post and these apps help people with vision issues become able to identify currency and make life a bit easier for them.

Have a great weekend, Sapna!
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Dadblunders January 25, 2013 at 10:06 am

Carolyn,

You and I are on the same page! The article I wrote last week for my blog, “Blogging Basics….Are Photos Important?” mentioned the importance of using ALT Tags on all of your photos.

Many people don’t realize that having disability doesn’t necessarily limit you from using modern technology. If a blogger isn’t using ALT Tags on their photos they are missing out on the opportunity to be more SEO ready and they are not allowing “screen reading” technology to work to it full potential on their site (it allows the photos to be read to a person with a sight disability).

The 21st century is truly a time for someone to become excited at all of the opportunities it allows “everyone” to have!!

Aaron Brinker
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2013 at 11:08 am

Hi Aaron, Wow, I didn’t know that was an advantage of adding Alt tags to images. I knew about SEO but it makes sense for screen reading technology as well.

Tech has opened up new worlds with accessibility features, making life easier for many people.

Thanks for sharing this information with us, Aaron!
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Dadblunders January 25, 2013 at 11:35 am

Carolyn,

Alt Tags that are rich in key words are great for SEO (as you are all aware) but it is the only way that current “screen reading” technology can read a photo to a person with disability. If a person leaves them blank they can’t be read at all to them. I believe, if a person wants their site to have the full potential it can have we should take the extra time to write out sentences (still rich in keywords) for all ALT Tags that allow the screen readers to do what they are intended for.

Don’t feel bad about not knowing they were intended for that. When I began blogging I didn’t know it either (I am still working back through my older posts adding them to all of my pictures). There is a lot of debate on how much they actually help for SEO but no one disagrees they are used for screen reading technology.

Aaron Brinker
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2013 at 11:40 am

Yes, I didn’t know about them either. I haven’t gone back and added them to older photos but I should. Thanks for suggesting that and for linking to your article using CommentLuv!
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jsncruz January 25, 2013 at 12:37 pm

This would be awesome in my country, the Philippines, where the visually-impaired commute and generally go about by themselves. They are far too often taken advantage of and apps like these could really help. Unfortunately, the tech is still a bit far out of reach of the common Filipino.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hi Jason, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Yes, unfortunately not all people are as kind as the customers of the Tampa newsstand. These apps can make a big difference to people. As the price of tech inevitably drops, the availability of these apps might be within the reach of more people worldwide.

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Jason!
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jsncruz January 27, 2013 at 9:33 am

Google DID predict that there may be 66 million Internet users in my country in the next 3 years – with a user-base as large as that, it’s inevitable that tech prices will drop too.

We hope! :P
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CarolB
Twitter:
January 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Wow! I never knew you could use a smart phone to identify currency. I will be sure to share this with several organizations I work with that serve people with visual impairments. Thanks again for sharing.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Hi Carol, Yes, I never knew it either until I came across information about IDEAL Currency Identifier. I tested the app and it worked perfectly. Such a helpful innovation to help those with vision issues.

Thanks for sharing this, Carol! I hope it helps someone be able to manage life better.
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Carol January 25, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Hi Carolyn, Thanks for this informative post. Our organization helps kids with all kinds of disabilities, and I am going to add this to our collection of resources. Thanks again for sharing such valuable information.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Hi Carol, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! I’m so glad that I have this blog to share this valuable information in the hope that it might help someone’s life become easier. Thanks so much for your good work and for spreading the word about this post, Carol.
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Dave January 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Wow is this an amazing app or what! The growth in technology used in mobile phone applications is amazing. The amount of resources for business, travel, games and anything you can think of grows every day. It is going to interesting moving forward and seeing what else the world can come up with.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Hi Dave, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Yes, I agree, these are truly amazing apps. Tech has certainly made life more manageable for many people.
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Lisa January 26, 2013 at 5:04 am

Thanks Carol for sharing these, I can think of at least 2 people I know that these apps would help. It is amazing to see what apps are being made today. I love seeing when technology can help people.
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Mayura
Twitter:
January 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

Hi Carolyn,

It reminds me of bar code / QR reader apps :) The concept behind the apps are meant to be very helpful for ‘em and I like how tech gonna help people with vision issues. They are taking the challenege :)

Once I did try using a QR reader app closing my eyes just to see whether it’s easy for a blind person to use. I just did that. You know it does identify, but without the vision it’s much more than using the app. That was too hard. Before everything, the app needs to be activated (Can be done via voice commands), then need to locate where the objects are and have to place or point the app well. There it’s really hard without an assistance. At least for me ;) lol…

Another thing that comes to my mind is that, as here it’s about money, the security need to be assured, right Carolyn? :) It counts dollars really well and I think there’s no problem with identification. But need to be careful where to use such apps, no? :) However these will replace the need of assistance of any other person to count money.

I don’t know how much they makes sense, but if the usability can be improved, then they will be able to use ‘em without much assistance, no? :) I hope they will come up with more usability improvements as they do more researches to minimize the assistance of others.

Cheers…
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 28, 2013 at 10:50 am

Hi Mayura, Yes, security is an issue. Since these apps can’t identify counterfeit bills, there is no assurance that a user won’t be scammed. But the apps will distinguish between different types of bills.

The better accessibility apps become, the better for everyone!
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sanchit January 28, 2013 at 3:19 am

Good blog, and a nice technology.
Thanks for share this blog.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Hi Sanchit, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Thank you kindly for the praise.
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Lancia January 29, 2013 at 5:45 am

You are absolutely correct, the heights reached by technology is out of expectation. I admire the way you have written this post on cool currency apps for visually impaired people. LookTel Money Reader is definitely one of the best app I have seen so far since my mother uses it. It is best to organize bills before hitting the nightclub; the only drawback of this app is it doesn’t work well in low light that’s what my mother complains about.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 29, 2013 at 9:25 am

Hi Lancia, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! You’re right, you do need bright light for these apps to work. Like bar code readers, these apps need to be able to detect data, which is difficult in low light.

That’s great that your mother enjoys using LookTel. Thanks for letting us know!
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Zainil January 29, 2013 at 11:32 am

Technology is really appreciated! :-) Hats off to the person who thought for the blinds and made this app to help them! :-)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 29, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Hi Zainil, Yes, technology has opened up new worlds to people. I am very pleased to share these apps with others who might benefit from it.
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Praveen Rajarao January 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I am sure these apps are really useful for the needed. Nice of you to bring this up and help out people who actually need such apps.

I will surely share this article with my circles. Thanks for sharing.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 29, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Hi Praveen, Thank you so much for sharing this article with others. I really hope it helps others who may need this service.
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Manickam Vijayabanu January 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Carolyn,
Very nice and intutive apps. The Braille reading system helps a lot to read for those who really challanged for vision. Similor the latest technology development paving new path and surely will help.

Thanks for letting us know the apps and sharing the info.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Hi Vijay, Yes, tech is really helping people with vision challenges overcome those challenges. Tech can really change lives in meaningful ways.
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Thomas
Twitter:
January 30, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Now you are just showing off Carolyn, but can it handle Danish Kroner (DKK)? ;-) Just kidding, it is some awesome apps for people having issues seeing. By the way do you know how awesome blind people are with a computer? I once installed Internet for a blind couple. They was both surfing online and sending e-mails. It was pretty impressive.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Hi Thomas, Lol, it’s amazing what people who are challenged can accomplish. People who overcome adversity are always an inspiration. That must have been amazing to see how that blind couple surfed the Internet. Tech can open up a new world for people with challenges.

Thanks for shopping by and sharing your thoughts, Thomas!
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Adrienne
Twitter:
January 31, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I was on another post just today Carolyn where they were talking about adding the text to your images because when people stop by to read your post who are visibly impaired they may have some device that reads it for them. They would still like to imagine what your photo looks like so by not adding text it will just state that it’s an image.

I can’t even imagine having this issue but that’s so cool that they have apps that can read money because this could be a major issue I think. Those are really cool and I watched how they worked.

Carolyn to the rescue.

~Adrienne
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Hi Adrienne, Yes, until Aaron mentioned that I had no idea that the image descriptions were read aloud by voice over software. I just had added descriptions to my images to have search engines have a better chance of finding my articles. But that’s very cool that descriptions can help in other ways too.

I hope these apps help others function better in the world, Adrienne. Tech has made a big difference in many lives and can help make everyday challenges much easier to overcome.
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Patrick February 1, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Fascinating. My first job was as a cashier at a local Kmart store, and once a sight-impaired customer came through my line: I was surprised to see that she was able to count out the correct number of bills because of the unique way she had each denomination folded. But back then, there’d have been no smartphone to help her figure out which bill was which before she left the house.

It’s amazing what technology can do!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Hi Patrick, What a wonderful story. That’s a brilliant way to keep track of money for the vision impaired. Much less expensive than getting a smartphone. I guess someone would have to know what the currency was in the first place to know how to fold the bills.

You’re right, technology is amazing in so many respects.
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Kent Morris February 3, 2013 at 6:11 am

Hi,
The growth in technology used in mobile phone applications is amazing. The amount of resources for business, travel, games and anything you can think of grows every day.
Thank you
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 3, 2013 at 7:53 am

Hi Kent, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! You’re exactly right, which is why I’m such a big fan of tech.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.
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