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Accessibility Features on Canadian Currency

January 19, 2011
Bank of Canada
Accessibility Features on Canadian Currency

This is a response to letter #2166 sent by AEBC on January 4, 2011.

See history below for details

19 January 2011

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
P.O. Box 20262, RPO Town Centre
Kelowna, BC V1Y 9H2

Attention: Robin East, President


Dear Mr. East,

On behalf of the Bank of Canada, thank you for your letter dated 4 January 2011 highlighting areas of interest for AEBC in making bank notes accessible to all blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians. The Bank feels that accessibility in its bank notes is very important, and to this end has been actively working with the blind and partially sighted community for the past 30 years. As you know, both the Birds of Canada and Canadian Journey series benefitted from consultations with stakeholders, including – as you mention in your letter – the predecessor to your organization. These consultations helped the Bank develop a suite of features to meet a range of different needs in the blind and partially sighted community.

As part of our preparation for the new series, we commissioned an independent third-party evaluation of the accessibility features. As noted in my comments below, the evaluation identified two target areas for improvement – the orientation of bank notes in the electronic reader and the durability of the tactile feature – and we hope to have addressed both of these in the development of the polymer notes. It is also helpful to have confirmation from you that improvement in these areas is a positive change.

For additional background, I've attached a copy of the University of Waterloo Study (2007) used to formally evaluate our suite of accessibility features, and an article from the Bank of Canada Review (2010), which is also available on our public website at

I would now like to take the time to respond to each of your suggestions:

1. Denominations of bills should have different sizes, or at least different lengths.

This has been investigated several times, most recently during the above consultation and evaluation process where it was concluded that the current comprehensive suite of accessibility features addresses the broad range of needs of the blind and partially sighted. This was also recognized and supported by CNIB. Furthermore, any additional benefits from a size differential would come with considerable costs from a system wide perspective.

2. There should be a full set of accessible features on the bank notes.

With the new notes, we will continue to offer a full suite of accessibility features, with a few notable improvements based on the above consultation and evaluation process: distinct vivid colours, large high contrast numerals, an embossed tactile feature expected to be more durable, and the portable reader that reads both ends of the note.

3. The tactile markings (Braille) to be sharper or at least as sharp as the paper bank notes.

As you pointed out in our meeting on 16 December, the tactile feature on the Alpha trial notes is not as sharp as we want and we are working at improving this feature for the new series.

4. There should be a clipped corner nearest the tactile marking, to assist with locating the first tactile marking (Braille cell) for location purposes.

Clipped and rounded corners have been explored in the past, but they cause problems during machine handling and can lead to interpretation difficulties as notes became worn in circulation. The smooth feel of the large window on the new notes can be used as a landmark to more quickly orient the note and locate the tactile feature.

5. Area surrounding the tactile marking (Braille cell) should be reinforced so there is less possibility of confusing the tactile marking (Braille) with raised wrinkling of the bank notes.

New polymer bank notes will still wrinkle thus the area around the tactile markings needs to be re-enforced or the issue confusing the tactile marking (Braille) with raised wrinkling of the bank notes will still exist.

The tactile feature is located in an area that minimizes premature wear or interference with other features on the note, and a protective varnish is applied to the entire surface of the note.

6. Electronic scanners, provided by the Bank of Canada, should recognize and read the bank notes regardless of the orientation of the bank note (all four possibilities).

Yes, as highlighted in the consultation and evaluation process, the new notes will contain the bank note reader code at both ends so the current device can read the short edge of the note in all four orientations. Three output modes will continue to be provided: voice (English or French), tone and vibration.

7. The note reader supplied by the Bank of Canada should be available at any financial institution at no charge.

The current bank note reader, which will be able to read the new note series as well as the previous two series, will continue to be offered at no charge through CNIB. CNIB has the distribution network and training personnel to serve blind and partially sighted Canadians across the country. CNIB also provides efficient tracking of inventory and device recipients.

I trust the above information is helpful and should you require further details we would be happy to discuss at your convenience. I appreciate the opportunity to consult with you in confidence, and remind you that information about the new bank notes must remain confidential until it is released by the Bank to the general public.

Marc Charron
Program Manager, Bank Note Performance
cc: Greg Kealey, Analyst, Currency Development
Lorna Thomas, Deputy Chief, Currency


  • #2166 was sent January 4, 2011 to Bank of Canada: Accessibility Features on Canadian Currency (has 1 replies)

    • This letter, #2167, which is a reply to #2166, was received January 19, 2011 from Bank of Canada: Accessibility Features on Canadian Currency