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Mother and blind son campaign for tactile Australian banknotes

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 24/05/2014 Julie Power
Connor McLeod and his mum Ally Lancaster. © Wolter Peeters Connor McLeod and his mum Ally Lancaster.

Australian banknotes may never feel the same again if 12 year-old Connor McLeod has his way.

Connor, who is legally blind and his mother Ally Lancaster, have lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Taking their cue from landmark overseas cases, they say Australian banknotes discriminate against the 300,000 people with visual impairment because they lack tactile markings.

Australian notes differ in size, and are printed with large numbers that assist people with some visual impairment, but they are difficult to differentiate for many other people.

To tell notes apart, Connor uses a device called a test card, provided by the Reserve Bank.

But like most 12-year-olds, the Oakhurst, NSW, year 7 student hates to stand out from his peers.

''The cash test card is embarrassing to pull out,'' he said. ''If you take it out and others see, it is like, 'Yep, he is blind'.''

A petition by Ms Lancaster on Connor's behalf on has attracted nearly 56,000 signatures of support.

All members of the community should be able to differentiate notes by touch without additional devices, said Maryanne Diamond, general manager of advocacy with Vision Australia. She called for more research - a call backed by the parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer, Steven Ciobo, who has met Connor and his mother.

Mr Ciobo has asked the bank to publicly release any research it has conducted into tactile features and to use focus groups as part of the banknote upgrade program.

While there were hurdles, such as the durability and handling of notes, he said tactile markings should be introduced unless the RBA identified a ''net detrimental impact from introducing tactile markings''.

Of the 180 countries that issue banknotes, only 23 use tactile markings such as raised dots, grooves or symbols.

The Reserve Bank, which is currently redesigning Australia's notes, said it was assessing a number of ways that tactile features could be incorporated.

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