RNIB and the Bank of England work together on the new accessible bank notes

Post date: 
Thursday, 27 July 2017

Shopping just got brighter for people living with sight loss, following the announcement that the Bank of England is due to bring in new bank notes this year, which incorporate features to help blind and partially sighted people better navigate their notes. 

The new polymer notes will retain tiered sizing and include bold numerals and similar colour palettes to the current paper notes. In addition, polymer £10 and £20 notes will each include a tactile feature (created by a series of raised dots), and the £5 note will be distinguishable by the absence of the feature. 

Bank of England working closely with RNIB

Here at RNIB we’re delighted to have worked closely with the Bank of England on this project, to offer guidance on what the new bank notes should look and feel like. Through focus group testing with a number of blind and partially sighted people, we were able to gather a large amount of user feedback which enabled us to advise the Bank of England on the size of the notes, what they should feel like, and how they would work best for people with sight loss. 

Steve Tyler, Head of Solutions, Strategy and Planning at RNIB, said:

"RNIB has worked with the Bank of England to offer guidance on what the new banknotes should look and feel like. The new five pound notes are made from a new material and are smaller than current notes. The other new notes, to be introduced at a later date, will have an additional tactile feature (created by a series of raised dots), different visual features and be successively larger in size. These characteristics should help people living with sight loss distinguish between denominations. The staged introduction of the new notes will provide blind and partially sighted people with time to get used to the new materials being used.”

The changes will initially come into effect with the new five pound note this September, with new ten notes due to enter circulation in 2017. The new five pound notes are made from a polymer plastic material and will be smaller than current notes. From a textural, contrast and size perspective, they are distinctive which should help people with sight loss to identify them. Future banknotes, when introduced, will have an additional tactile feature, different visual features and be successively larger in size. These characteristics should help people living with sight loss distinguish between denominations. 

Rigorous user testing process

The rigorous user testing process used in the development of the notes will continue once they are released, and we’ll continue gathering feedback as the notes enter circulation and users get used to the new feel of them. 

Handling cash can often be a challenge if you're blind or partially sighted, because it can be difficult to tell the difference between the different notes and coins. We hope the creation of these notes will help lots of our members exchange money easily and in a safer manner. 

Not only that, hopefully it will encourage other businesses and associations to follow suit, as they recognise the growing importance of making their products and services accessible to all. 

Victoria Cleland, Chief Cashier at the Bank of England, said:

“Banknotes are a key part of daily life, and we want them to continue to be accessible and easy to use for everyone.  Our new polymer notes, the first of which – the £5 - will be issued this September, are cleaner, safer and stronger and will be different heights and lengths to help distinguish between denominations.  I am also delighted that, to further enhance banknote checking, the new polymer £10 and £20 notes will included a tactile embossed feature.  I am grateful to RNIB for their help in testing this great new innovation. ”

 
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