BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Monday, 10 September, 2001, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Blind people get to grips with the euro
Blind man training
Blind people train to recognise the new notes
By Shirin Wheeler in Belgium

For partially sighted and blind people, the introduction of the euro in 12 countries of the European Union at the end of the year is a potentially daunting prospect.

There are seven notes and eight coins to get used to, and not much time to do it.

Nicole Van Royen
Nicole Van Royen: needs a currency she can trust
Without special training there have been worries that the EU's 7.4 million visually impaired people could miss out on valuable information during the switch over.

But organisations representing blind people in Europe say the new currency's design should prove relatively easy to deal with.

"As a blind person I want my currency to be clear and above all I need to feel sure of it. I think the euro is going to be a real improvement on what we've got now," says Nicole Van Royen, who does not find Belgium's national currency easy to deal with.


It's not going to be a problem - it's easy to feel and recognise the coins

11-year-old Kelly
It is hard to distinguish between the notes and the minimal amount of relief put on them to help the visually impaired has long since worn away.

Nicole will be happy next year to pay for her favourite cigars with a euro instead.

Primary school children at the Uccle School in Brussels, run by the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind People, have been working with the training games and replica coins specially produced for visually impaired people around Europe.

Faces set with concentration, small fingers trace round the coins picking out the different textures and ridging.

"It's not going to be a problem. It's easy to feel and recognise the coins," 11-year-old Kelly says jubilantly.

10 cent coins
Blind groups have been pleased with the design of the coins
Wasim agrees: "They've got ridges and relief. Each one is different".

Getting the design right on the notes and coins has taken seven years of hard lobbying and negotiation between Europe's blind groups and the currency designers.

But there have been disappointments too - campaigners lost their battle for a hexagonal or multi-edged coin like the ones in Britain. It was fiercely opposed by the vending machine industry.


This is the first time that the authorities have consulted associations representing the blind before and not after the event

Jean-Pierre Lhoest, European Blind Union
But even so, Europe's blind associations say the euro will be a huge improvement on most national currencies.

The notes have also been specially designed. In spite of big extra costs the European Central Bank agreed to print them in different sizes and to use bold colours and relief for the blind and partially sighted.

"This is the first time that the authorities have consulted associations representing the blind before and not after the event.

"We really are very happy with the outcome," says Jean-Pierre Lhoest, chair of the European Blind Union's special euro group which negotiated with the ECB and the various national mints to get a good deal for the blind.

Millions of euros in funds have also been made available for training programmes and in Belgium they are also hoping to issue every blind and partially sighted personal a special vocal currency converter.

But for Europe's blind and sighted citizens the real test of these good intentions and the new money will start on New Year's Day.


Key stories

Background

AUDIO VIDEO

FORUM

FACT FILES

INTERACTIVE QUIZ

SPECIAL REPORT

TALKING POINT
See also:

07 Sep 01 | Europe
05 Sep 01 | Europe
05 Sep 01 | Business
13 Apr 01 | Europe
03 Sep 01 | Europe
09 Feb 01 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes