Ordinarily, Komakech would just need to pick a note from his pocket and pay cash, like any other person. But because paper money in Uganda does not have any form of distinguishable tactile marking, he ends up spending and losing more.
Denis Komakech, a visually impaired man in Gulu scrolls
through his phone to pay for a purchase, as the only trusted option for cash
Ordinarily, Komakech would just need to pick a note from his
pocket and pay cash, like any other person. But because paper money in Uganda does
not have any form of distinguishable tactile marking, he ends up spending and
losing more. He says he has lost a lot of money to unscrupulous people who
gave him less change after he gave them a big note. He never recovered any of
his lost money, because he always realized late.
Using his talking phone which tells him which digit he
has pressed, Komakech chose to transact using mobile money, to avoid loses of
any kind. Although paying using mobile money requires him to pay a little more
through withdrawal charges, Komakech says it is better than losing more to a
//Cue in; “The biggest amount…
Cue out…or five k.”//
Komakech works as a policy and advocacy officer for a charity
organization in Uganda, and his position requires him to travel a lot. This, he
says makes him prone to losing money, especially when using public transport.
He also says he fears being handed a fake note, which he says
he has no idea how to detect.
//Cue in; “I have heard that…
Cue out…skills to identify.”//
Before the idea of using mobile money to make payments
crossed his mind, Komakech says he identified his note shillings by the sizes
and shapes. However, he says this came with errors, especially if the note was
only one and he could not make a comparison.
//Cue in; I took an…
Cue out…one is better.”//
Elizabeth Abur, a blind teacher and mother of six says that whenever
she wants to buy many items, she sits and sorts her note shillings according to
the different denominations and puts each denomination in a separate pocket,
making sure to master which pocket contains which notes.
Abur says that when given one million shillings of different
denominations, she requires about an hour to sort them out. This method, she
says, is tedious and time-consuming, but is better entrusting someone else with
//Cue out; “The only thing…
Cue out…nobody will cheat you.”//
Just like Komakech, Abur says she has lost a lot of money to
dishonest people who hand her back little change, especially when she used the 20,000
or 50,000 Shillings note.
//Cue in; “You give 10 k…
Cue out…you gave me 20.”//
Denis Ocen Lakwonyero, a councillor for persons with
disability in Gulu, says he uses the size method to identify his money, but
admits that he has also lost money using this method, saying it is not a
completely reliable method. “Each note has a different size, the smaller the
denomination, the smaller the size,” Ocen says.
Charles Byekwaso, the acting Executive Director of Uganda
National Association of the Blind, UNAB, says he can only ably identify the
coins, but has to rely on trusted people to sort his note shillings.
//Cue in; “Bank of Uganda…
Cue in…in my pocket.”//
Byekwaso says that although Uganda shillings notes have different
sizes, it is not an excellent way for the blind to identify money, because one
needs to have all the notes arranged in their order of sizes to know which one
is which, otherwise, it confuses them.
He appeals to the Bank of Uganda to consider putting braille on
the note, to save their time when identifying notes, and also reduce the loss of
money to unscrupulous people.
//Cue in; “Especially the bodaboda…
Cue out…never been attended to.”//
have also invented assistive technology devices and mobile apps to help people
who are blind or visually impaired identify money. These will tell the user –
either verbally or through tones or vibrations – the denomination of each bill.
Wallet for instance is an Icon specifically made to help people with visual
impairments to identify money. The user will only need to lay their money on a
flat surface and use the rear camera of the smartphone and they are alerted to
the money’s currency and value.