The Reserve Bank of Australia has issued its first ever tactile banknote on September 1 after a campaign by a blind boy.
Three years ago, 12-year-old Connor McLeod filed a discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission and started an online petition with his mother which received more than 56,000 supporters.
The A$5 note goes into circulation with a tiny new feature designed to help people who are blind or visually impaired.
It has two raised dots on both of its long sides, allowing those who cannot see to identify its value, ABC reports.
It is Australia’s first note to feature the tactile markings, and is being hailed as a major breakthrough.
Bruce Maguire from the non-profit Vision Australia organization said: “For the first time in the history of Australian currency it will be possible for someone who is blind or vision-impaired to just pick up a note and know instantly what it is.”
He says the change will help 360,000 Australians.
Currently, blind or visually impaired people have to rely on others to identify the note and give the correct change. Some use a measuring instrument – which ABC News notes can be fiddly in a busy shop – or smart phone apps.
Connor McLeod, now 15, wrote on the news.co.au website: “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.”
Connor McLeod came up with the idea after receiving some money for Christmas when he was 11, “but had no idea how much it was and how generous or tight-arse the present-giver had been,” he said on September 1.
Australia’s central bank (the Reserve Bank of Australia) has cut its key interest rate by 25 basis points to a historic low of 2%.
Rising property prices in Australia’s biggest city, Sydney, a strong currency and a drop in iron ore prices are among the reasons for the cut.
The cut is the second in 2015, following a previous 25 basis point cut in February.
The RBA’s move follows similar action from central banks in China, Canada, Singapore, Korea and India.
A rising Australian dollar had also been cause for concern. The currency started to fall against the US dollar on the RBA’s announcement.
The RBA’s move also follows worrying official trade numbers released on May 5th which showed Australia’s trade deficit had missed expectations in March.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the deficit had narrowed by a seasonally adjusted 18% to 1.32 billion Australian dollars ($1.03 billion).
Analysts said the numbers were due in part to falling iron ore and coal exports.
The RBA had been under pressure to cut its lending rates further this year, particularly amid worrying iron ore prices – which recently fell to decade lows – together with a recent strengthening of the local currency.
Iron ore is Australia’s most valuable export and the plummeting prices – attributed to a supply glut and waning demand from China, a key buyer of the product – have been hurting miners’ profits, as well as government tax revenue.
Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said last month that the government would face a multi-billion dollar revenue loss due to a plunge in the price of iron ore.
The government will deliver its 2015-2016 budget papers on May 12 and has said it remains committed to achieving a budget surplus.
Analysts said the RBA’s move to cut its lending rates would help further lower the Australian dollar, which would in turn help commodity producers exporting products priced in US dollars.
“Further depreciation seems both likely and necessary,” RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said, “particularly given the significant declines in key commodity prices.”
In March, Australia said its economy grew 2.5% in Q4 2014 from a year earlier, marking its slowest pace of annual growth last year.
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