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A new Mastercard design is meant to make life easier for visually impaired users

The new Touch Cards from Mastercard have different shape notches cut into the sides to help customers who are visually impaired find the right card by touch alone. The Touch Card credit card has a round notch, the debit card has a squarish notch and the prepaid card has a triangular notch.
The new Touch Cards from Mastercard have different shape notches cut into the sides to help customers who are visually impaired find the right card by touch alone. The Touch Card credit card has a round notch, the debit card has a squarish notch and the prepaid card has a triangular notch.

Approaching a register to pay for a morning coffee, for many, probably feels routine. The transaction likely takes no more than a few seconds: Reach into your wallet, pull out a debit or credit card and pay. Done.

But for customers who are visually impaired, the process of paying can be more difficult.

With credit, debit and prepaid cards moving toward flat designs without embossed names and numbers, bank cards all feel the same and cause confusion for people who rely on touch to discern differences.

One major financial institution is hoping that freshly designed bank cards, made especially for blind and sight-impaired customers, will make life easier.

Mastercard will distribute its new Touch Card — a bank card that has notches cut into the sides to help locate the right card by touch alone — to U.S. customers next year.

"The Touch Card will provide a greater sense of security, inclusivity and independence to the 2.2 billion people around the world with visual impairments," Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer, said in a statement. "For the visually impaired, identifying their payment cards is a real struggle. This tactile solution allows consumers to correctly orient the card and know which payment card they are using."

Credit cards have a round notch; debit cards have a broad, square notch; and prepaid cards have a triangular notch, the company said.

Virginia Jacko, who is blind and president and chief executive of Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired Inc., told The Wall Street Journal that feature also addresses an important safety concern for people with vision problems.

People with vision problems would no longer have to ask strangers for help identifying which card they need to use, Jacko said.

The new feature was developed with the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the U.K. and VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the U.S., according to both organizations.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.