A small change in Australia creates a big change for thousands!

McLeod successfully lobbied the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to have tactile markings embedded on all new bank notes. Connor could only tell the difference between coins. “That’s fine for the tuck shop, he states, but what about when I get older? Mum won’t be around forever to help me. I realised I’d need to learn how to use notes, because — hopefully — when I’m older, I’ll have more money than just coins to deal with!”

With over 360,000 vision impaired people living in Australia you would think a request for tactile markings on all new bank notes would be a given. However the Reserve Bank refused to include them despite actively printing banknotes with tactile markings for other countries. Connor and his mother launched a discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission and started a petition through Change.org asking for the next print run of bank notes to include the markings.

57,000 people signed the Change.org petition, proving that there was a need. Connor further asked those signers to contact the RBA and add more pressure. Still, they refused.

Connor and his mother then travelled to Canberra and met a politician employed by the treasury. They delivered the petition to him, and, things began to change.

On 1 September 2016 the new $5 bank note entered circulation. It took a long time to create the design for the note in which Connor played a large role. Other currencies that use tactile functions have had issues with the markings getting squashed. But a new method of printing bank notes has solved that problem. In the last few years new technology has been developed that allows the tactile feature to be made as part of the note itself and lasting as long as the note does.

Vision Australia had been advocating for tactile features on currency for years. However it was Connor’s story and activism that created the ultimate driver for change.A photo of a new Australian $5 bank note with tactile features for people who are vision impaired.

So how does New Zealand stack up? Statistics taken from the New Zealand Blind Foundation’s Annual Report 2015 estimates the total number of people registered with them is 12,109. Currently our bank notes have no tactile markings.

With the path laid for us by our neighbours across the ditch, surely we can make the same process happen and create further inclusion and independence for our blind and vision-impaired people.

The benefits are obvious. As Connor states, “Now when I grow up, I won’t have to rely on trusting that people have always given me the right change. I can feel the markings on the bank notes and tell them if they’ve given me the wrong change and also think to myself: I did that. Above all, it means I can be independent. I can’t wait for that. That feels good.”

Is anyone ready to take up the charge and make this a reality here?