A calculator with a money symbol next to it

Making purchases: O&M/ECC activity

Incorporate 21st century resources in your O&M and ECC lessons!

As an O&M, I have taught all of my academic students how to fold money and how to organize paper money in their wallet. In more recent years, students have bolstered their money identification skills by learning to use apps to identify paper money. These are valuable skills! We have role played purchase scenarios and set up practicing purchases at school, including special arrangements in the lunchroom to pay for lunches and/or snacks with cash and making small purchases from the school store for school supplies. Students have opportunities to make purchases using cash at local stores and fast food restaurants. However, no matter how many times the student practices and makes purchases in the community, the student becomes nervous and typically hands over all the cash instead of pulling out the correct amount. Young students often become flustered when reaching out to give the cash or when receiving money back. Many students stuff the cash back in a pocket (with no organization) just to finish the transition quickly – with no thought about organizing the cash. I get it – it can be an awkward situation for both the student and the cashier. Throw in a line of impatient customers waiting behind the student . . . and things go south quickly!

POS activity

A POS is defined as the hardware or software used by a business to make sales or simply “where you ring up customers”.

During a rainy day, teach a lesson about various kinds of payment: credit, debit and prepaid cards. With older students, involve the parents if possible and see if the parents are interested in setting the student up with a card. ideally, the student should have chores to do to earn some money to put on the card. (Encourage the extended family to be involved – can the student babysit, pet sit, wash a car, or be responsible for other chores to earn money?) Prepay cards work well for some students. If possible, the parents can set up a bank account and the student can learn about online banking and managing money. The parents should have the discussion about expectations, limits of spending, etc. and ideally, you (the O&M) should follow through with these discussions. Prepaid cards (with limited funds) for O&M lessons are ideal, as there is no possibility of running up a debt or spending too much money. Note: Even if the card has money on it, students should know and respect spending boundaries!

Note: It is not always possible to have the family set up a card. In that case, I (the O&M) will purchase a prepaid card.

Credit, debit and prepaid cards and Point of Sale (POS) terminals, make things so much easier as students no longer have to deal with paper cash! One of my favorite “purchase-related” O&M activities is to introduce the student to a POS. My students have had O&M lessons in their local grocery store and are familiar with the standard grocery store layout. The manager and store workers are also familiar with my student and have subtly observed the student learning the grocery store and understand that these visits are part of the student’s learning process. Before the POS lesson, I’ll touch base with the grocery store and ask permission for my student to explore a POS that is not in use. (Be sure to pick a quiet time of day and NOT right before a major holiday!) During the lesson the student is introduced to the various parts of the POS and can explore how to insert or tap the credit card. Be sure to teach where and how to find the POS terminal!


The student should keep track of how much money is on the card, if prepaid or keep a runny tally of how much money is in the bank. Part of the assignment will be to create a simple digital spreadsheet about money earned, date earned, money spent (and what it was spent on), date spent, and running tally of available money. (If the student is not comfortable using a spreadsheet, try keeping a word document with the information.) Also, encourage the student to keep goals and a budget. How much money does the student need to save in order to buy Christmas gifts for family members or friends? Is there an upcoming event to save for? An item the student would like to purchase? All students learn the value of money when they have to earn and save for things! Associating how many hours of work it will take to purchase that name-brand pair of tennis shoes will quickly teach the value of money!

Accessible Mastercards

Plastic cards are hard to differentiate tactually. Some users might mark the card with a sticker or a paperclip to identify where to hold the card when inserting it into a POS. (FYI: A paperclip on a hotel card key works great too!) Previously, many cards had raised numbers, making it easier to identify the front and back of the card; however, newer cards have eliminated the raised numbers.

Mastercard now offers “Touch Cards” which are notched cards so that visually impaired users can tell the cards apart. A square cutout indicates that it is a credit card, a circle cutout is a debit card and a triangle cut out is prepaid. Such a simple yet inclusive design!

Three cards with edges sticking out of a wallet; one with a circle cut out, one with square cutout, and one with a triangle cut out.

(Screenshot from Mastercard video below)

Learn more about Mastercard Touch Cards. Currently, the Mastercard website states that Touch Card will be available soon. Please check back on the Mastercard website for updates on availability!

When the Touch Cards are available, O&Ms can request prepaid Touch Cards to be used during O&M lessons, eliminating the issue of identifying which card to use and how to position the card correctly when using a POS! Thank you Mastercard!

Mastercard has a wonderful video advertisement, called Spotlight staring Marilee Talkington. Marilee is a legally blind actor and activist who plays the character, Marjorie in the video. Marjorie travels through her neighborhood in near darkness with Marjorie and key people illuminated by a spotlight. This video is audio described and captioned. This is a powerful video and should be incorporated into an O&M lesson! Not only is the information about the Touch Cards in the video, but also the confident way that Marjorie travels and interacts with people in her neighborhood. Priceless!

Mastercard’s Spotlight video below:


Linda shared that she uses paper credit card sleeves and brailles the name of the card on the sleeve. The credit card and sleeve will fit in your wallet’s credit card holder. Simply carry the card in the braille sleeve for easy identification. Here is the Amazon link to paper credit card sleeves.

Another viewer mentioned that most POS machines do not announce the amount, so her only option is to ask the cashier or someone with vision what the amount is. There are some POS machines that do have audio announcements, but this is not a standard feature. One option is to add yoru credit card to Apple Pay. Apple Pay is fully accessible with VoiceOver. You can use your iPhone or Apple Watch, open Apple Pay, select the desired card, and tap the top of the POS machine. Your device provides haptic feedback when the transaction is completed and you can view the transaction (amount) in Apple Pay.

Please share your ideas and strategies for making purchases!


By Diane Brauner

Monarch multiline braille display

Graphing with the Monarch and Desmos

Cartoon lion sitting beside wrapped gifts, holding balloons and wearing a pointy hat.

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Voice Dream Reader Cover

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