Some of these products can be demonstrated at RNIB Resource Centres. NB: Prices may have changed, and those given, are for guidance only.
There are two main ways of producing Moon which requires specialist equipment: linear Moon and dotty Moon. However, the simplest way of producing Moon is with a hand-frame.
Take your time to fully inform yourself about this tactile reading system and explore it in full capacity. Learn all the variants the system has, all the levels of learning, understanding, and reading you can accomplish. Moon is a system that is made out of shapes rather than dots like Braille. That is why it is better for those who are not that tactile sensitive, for those who previously learn the alphabet and for those who have other disabilities, or who are just frustrated at the pace it takes them to learn Braille. It is important for a person to have choices and that is what Moon is giving them.
The Moon hand-frame is a simple and low-cost frame of A5 size for writing Moon. It consists of a grid fixed to a rubber base. Plastic film or self-adhesive labeling material is inserted between the grid and the base. When a Moon letter is firmly written with a biro in one of the squares, the plastic film is marked. The Moon characters can be easily distinguished by touch when the film is removed from the frame.
When using the Moon hand-frame for making self-adhesive labels, the plastic labeling material must be placed face down in the frame (adhesive side up); the characters are written in reverse, working from right to left so that they appear on the right side of the material. Considerable pressure is needed to ensure the Moon characters are embossed so that they can be felt easily when the material is removed from the frame. However, it is not always easy to use a hand-frame and the end result will vary from user to user.
This method involves the use of special paper (swell paper) which produces raised images when passed through a heat diffuser. The first step is to create a Word document on a computer using the Moon font (see Downloadable Moon Font). This document is then printed out and photocopied onto the special swell paper. The copy is then passed through a heat fuser. The black lines on the paper absorb heat which causes the image to rise up. A pen is also available for drawing Moon letters directly onto the swell paper, either freehand or by using a Moon stencil. The sheet is then heated as described above.
The following companies sell swell paper and fusers:
An alternative is to produce Moon using a computer, software, and embosser. There are now several workable combinations of software packages and embossers. To produce dotty Moon a text document is created in Word. This is then converted into Moon using specialist software. The file is then sent to the embosser to produce Moon.
Duxbury Braille Translation Software, price approx £385.00, can translate into dotty Moon and is available from Techno-Vision Systems Ltd. This software is compatible with the following Enabling Technologies embossers:
Braille Maker Professional, price approx £395.00, also does dotty Moon and is compatible with the following Index embossers:
Index Basic S, with speech, single sided, fan fed paper, price approx £1545.00
Index Basic D, with speech, double-sided, fan fed paper price approx £1945.00
Index Everest, with speech, double/single sided, single sheet, price approx £2495.00
There is also a range of Tiger Embossers which produce Dotty Moon, including the Tiger Pro which is approx £6,995.00. Desktop embossers include the Tiger Max at £4,495.00 and the Tiger Cub which is £2,895.00. These embossers do not require separate software; they translate directly from Microsoft Word. The embossers are available in the UK from Force Ten www.forcetenco.co.uk. Other suppliers include ViewPlus Technology: www.viewplus.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
DeafBlind UK: Zychem fuser for linear Moon;
Linden Lodge: Duxbury + Juliet Pro embosser for Dotty Moon; Zychem fuser and swell paper for linear Moon;
HMP Guys Marsh: Zychem fuser for linear Moon;
HMP Maghaberry: Braille Maker Professional + Index Basic D embosser for Dotty Moon;
Pia: Braille Maker + Index embosser for Dotty Moon; Zychem fuser for linear Moon.
Because it is similar to the alphabet, Moon is great for adults who may remember the alphabet before their sight changed, or who are not tactile sensitive enough for Braille. The shapes are easier for children to understand and remember making the entire process of learning quicker and easier.
Moon has always been considered a suitable reading medium for people who have been print readers and have lost their sight later in life. Many older people are discouraged by the finger sensitivity and effort required to learn Braille; Moon enables those people to regain their enjoyment in reading. Moon is also used by adults with learning disabilities. Adults are usually taught by Rehabilitation Officers through Social Services, using learning materials available from the Royal National Institute of the Blind. St Dunstan’s provides tuition for ex-servicemen and women.
In 1994 the “Moon as a Route to Literacy” report from the University of Birmingham showed that children with a severe visual impairment and additional learning difficulties were being excluded from any form of literacy and suggested Moon as the way forward for some of these children. The RNIB responded by setting up the “Moonbase” resource center at Ruston Hall, a residential school for pupils with a visual impairment and multiple disabilities. The school has since closed but the use of Moon for this group of children has increased over the last ten years and there are now estimated to be over a hundred children learning Moon in the UK. Many of these children are only able to read single letters and individual words but without Moon, these first steps to literacy could not have been taken. The research work at Birmingham University continues. See Research.
In 2003 a census of young Moon users was conducted on behalf of the Moon Forum. Copies of the census were sent to everyone on the old Moonbase mailing list. They were also enclosed with RNIB Eye Contact magazine and sent to all schools and VI Services which borrow from ClearVision. They were also handed out at exhibitions, etc. Replies were received from 50 people working with young Moon readers. Details were given for 88 children under the age of 18. Of these, 65 were learning Moon and 23 were identified as potential Moon readers. 58% of the children were boys. Of the children learning Moon, 50% were aged 12-18.
The census asked for information on the level at which each child was reading Moon. The scale ranged from 1 – being introduced to Moon, to 7 – independent Moon reader. 56% of the children could read no more than individual Moon letters. 77% could read no more than individual words. 4 children were able to read several paragraphs without a break; one was described as an independent Moon reader.
Of the 23 children identified as potential Moon readers, 12 were currently using objects of reference, 8 were using picture symbols, one was using large print, one used Braille, one “auditory” and two children were not using any of these.
Some personal experiences of Moon
Please click on the links to read the following:
Juliet Stone (former Lecturer at the School of Education, University of Birmingham)
Case History – Florence Boyles
Case History – Joyce Berry
Derbyshire Association for the Blind Newsletter, 2004
A Case for Moon: Oliver Booth
Ian Hebborn from St Dunstan’s
Jill Fryer (former Lecturer at Worcester College of Technology)
Jenefer Roberts (Advisory Teacher for Visually Impaired, Suffolk)
Juliet Stone (former Lecturer at the School of Education, University of Birmingham) writes:
Worcestershire Association for the Blind has held classes in Moon for the past few years. These classes were in collaboration with the Worcester College of Further Education and consisted of about 15 adults with a tutor and support assistants. Many of the students said that Moon had transformed their lives.
One 82-year-old gentleman said “I hadn’t read for forty years and thought I would never do so again. Now I read a lot, mainly biographies. I’ve read the life of Martin Luther King and others, but now (said with a smile) I’m reading Joan Collins! As soon as I have had my breakfast, I have a good hour’s reading before I do my chores.”
One lady said, “I was never a reader, even before I lost my sight, but with Moon, I can now label my clothes, my CDs and lots of things. Moon has given me back my independence”. Another gentleman said that he uses Moon for his recipes, having just done a cookery course.
One particularly interesting comment was from another lady, in her mid-thirties, who admitted to having no interest in anything when she first lost her sight. She had attempted Braille but gave up immediately. On being introduced to Moon, she learned it quickly and then was motivated to go on and learn Braille, through which she is studying at a College of Further Education. “But I still use Moon, to send notes to my family and friends. They couldn’t be bothered to learn Braille, but they mastered Moon and so it is the main form of communication for us.”
Case History – Florence Boyles
Florence Boyles is 84 and lives in North London. She lost her sight late in life through glaucoma and waited two years for an “excellent” Braille teacher to be provided by Social Services. She had no trouble writing Braille but found she could not read it by touch as one of the side-effects of her diabetes is poor sensitivity in her fingers. Her teacher advised her to learn Moon but Mrs. Boyles was initially reluctant as she felt it was so little known. She started to learn Moon, with the same teacher, at the age of 80, helped by a sighted neighbor who learned it alongside her. All her family has now learned Moon. Learning Moon was “fascinating” for Mrs. Boyles. Having learned the alphabet quite easily she moved on to simple books in Moon and then to books from the National Library for the Blind. She is still a keen member of NLB.
She writes Moon using a hand-frame and “German film”.
Mrs. Boyles is very enthusiastic about Moon and gives talks to groups as she would like to encourage more people to learn Moon. She would also like to see an increase in the production of materials in Moon – especially magazines and short stories as she finds many Moon books too heavy to hold and multi-volume books rather daunting. She would also welcome the use of Moon for everyday items such as utility bills. Mrs. Boyles sees a need for more teachers of Moon, more books and more publicity for Moon. She would also like to have a nationwide network of Moon readers. She considers that there is a real danger of Moon fading away without more investment and support – and has written to her MP and to others to state the case for Moon. Florence Boyles remained active in the promotion of Moon until her death at the end of 2006. The Moon Forum is grateful for all her support and encouragement.
Case History – Joyce Berry
“A few years ago, I lost my remaining eyesight completely; the incredible pressure, of this, cannot be underestimated and it took all my strength trying to adapt both practically and emotionally. I wanted, in fact, needed, to be able to keep my mind active, by reading. I learned Moon, with help from a tutor, and am really pleased with this achievement. I look forward to the books arriving by post and have read my way through a variety of fiction; I particularly like stories about nurses, as it reminds me of my nursing days, years ago! I read in bed in the evening and don’t disturb my husband, as there’s no need to have the light on!
If further developments could be made with Moon, I would like to suggest the following:
some smaller books which could be stored in a bag and brought out when other family members are sitting reading a newspaper, for example, in a café
labeling – I would like to be able to label things, in the house, using Moon. Perhaps a machine could be developed, from which labels could be produced
a catalog, in Moon, of all the titles available. This would enable people to independently select what they want to read.
Lastly, if I could have one wish, it would be to have a hymn book and sections of the Bible or related religious teachings, in Moon. I love to sing, in Church, but now have to hum along, as I can’t remember the words and am unable to follow new hymns”.
Derbyshire Association for the Blind Newsletter, 2004
A Case for Moon: Oliver Booth
Hi! My name is Oliver Booth and I’m a “Mooner”, that’s to say I read and write Moon, the alternative to Braille. Struggling to make sense of a pattern of raised Braille dots is not for me. Moon gives me the comparative luxury of feeling familiar shapes. I am not knocking Braille. It’s argued that the system is more suitable for people who lose their sight at an early age, while Moon may be much better for people who have knowledge of printed letters before losing their sight. This also makes Moon more suitable for easier communication between blind and sighted.
Moon is usually written with the aid of a Moon frame which has 140 squares in which to draw Moon letters onto plastic film. I have also successfully experimented with household items like a square of Flotex carpet for a pad, a plastic dish drainer for a frame and all sorts of plastic, card and kitchen foil to produce an embossed effect. So readers may ask: “If Moon is so good why have so few people heard of it?” They would be justified because Moon has been around since 1847 when Brighton doctor William Moon gained worldwide recognition for his invention, which he developed because of his dissatisfaction with the embossed systems of the day.
Unfortunately, others hold explanations as to why Moon is not so well known today. I have challenged them for apparently not making people more aware of Moon.
My reason for championing Moon is simple. It is an alternative that is available if people find Braille difficult to master. I believe people should have a choice; otherwise, there is no point to campaigns like “The Right to Read”. The National Library for the Blind lends books in Moon and a greater demand for them could well lead to an increase in stocks of books in Moon. However, little or no publicity for Moon could result in little or no demand for the books with the obvious consequences. I rest my case!
The views expressed are entirely those of the author and not of Derbyshire Association for the Blind.
Ian Hebborn from St Dunstan’s writes:
We assess many St Dunstaners new to the charity or whose circumstances have changed. Within the assessment process, one area that is covered is Communications and within this tactile communication – braille and Moon – are included. Our client group reflects fairly well the blind population of the UK and so most St Dunstaners joining the charity will be older and have some remaining useful vision that we look to utilize as best we can. Added to this advances in technology, both with CCTV electronic magnifiers, standalone scanners, and access software for PCs, there are few people we see who wish to learn a tactile form of reading and writing.
Having said this, it is something we would certainly explore and encourage where appropriate. We are able to provide training in Moon and have done so on several occasions, with St Dunstaners returning to our center in Ovingdean for Moon lessons. Some have wanted to use it for labeling purposes, others for recreational purposes. During awareness training, we tell people about Moon and have the RNIB “This is Moon” cards to give to people who are interested. We recognize the importance of giving our St Dunstaners the opportunity to learn to read using Moon where this is a feasible option to explore.
Jill Fryer (former Lecturer at Worcester College of Technology) writes:
In collaboration with Worcester Association for the Blind, I taught a literacy group, consisting of adults with learning disabilities and visual impairment. For one lady in her forties, learning to read Moon opened up her world. A lover of music and composers, the lady was thrilled to be able to read about their lives and label her music collection. In addition, having the ability to label everyday objects helped her gain more independence and in turn boosted her self-esteem.
Jenefer Roberts (Advisory Teacher for Visually Impaired, Suffolk) writes:
I am a qualified teacher of children with a visual impairment and, over the last few years, I have taught the Moon code to several non-sighted children. There is often surprise and interest when people find me teaching Moon rather than braille to these children. “Why is this child being taught Moon?” is a frequently asked question.
In nearly all the cases the answer has been that the child has tried to learn Braille and has failed at it. It has been found very difficult and the child has sometimes taken an intense dislike to it. Then further attempts to teach Braille have foundered. In my experience, this has always happened with children who have some degree of learning difficulty or delay. The decision to teach them the Moon letters instead has frequently been greeted with relief by these children, by their parents, and by their teachers.
Moon is an alternative to Braille. While Braille is a system of dots that helps those with impaired sight to read, Moon is made in shapes and is much softer and easier to recognize. It is a language that is read by touch and is quite easy one to learn. A lot of school teachers, volunteers and others who work with people with impaired sight learned it quite easily.
Characters in this written language are quite large and they do bear resemblance to the letters, meaning that people who lost their sight during their life, or those who have the sight which worsened over time but they still learned letters before the impairment of the sight, can more easy find their way around Moon written language than around Braille.
How is it different?
Braille is the completely specific written language that is completely made of the dots, meaning that unique position of several dots forms one letter or one word. In Moon, the shapes resemble the letters meaning the characters are more easily recognizable and easier to learn. They are also more easily read trough fingers no matter how small or big characters or your fingers are, meaning that the shapes are more easily understood by people who are not that sensitive to the touch, unlike Braille.
This means that people with other physical or learning difficulties who also have impaired sight can more easily learn Moon than Braille. Parents and friends of the children and people with impaired sight can also more easily learn Moon than Braille because, as we mentioned, it resembles the printed written alphabet. That also means that people who had difficulties with Braille now have the alternative and will with more confidence and more ease master the Moon sign alphabet. It can also lead them to develop a skill set that will help them, master Braille, more easily too.
How do the Moon works?
We said that Braille is a written sign language that is made of dots that form various patterns. Well, Moon uses curves and lines which form nine shapes that are the base. Reflecting or rotating those shapes creates different shapes – twenty-six alphabet letters. Moon Grade 1 also have numerical signs and dots that are punctuation marks. This provides a complete tactile version regarding any written text. If there is a need for increasing the speed of reading, there are some additional shorthands and signs that you can learn, like the letters that can represent whole words. This system that is more complex is called Moon Grade 2.
Why just not use the alphabet?
Well, this was tried in the early years, but it didn’t work out. The letters are quite complex so in order for them to be recognized they have to be bigger and that is just not practical. Also, people did complain that the reading time was quite long and that the letters were never quite felt and understood properly. Readers were also quite frustrated by bulky books they needed to use, for the alphabet to be just a little functional.
Under the terms blind we mean partial or complete lack of recognition of light. These visual impairments can occur in different ways. Damage can occur from birth, as well as the effects of some eye or other illness (trauma, falls, headache, loss of consciousness, various infections, toxins, brain injuries, etc.)
What are the biggest problems faced by blind and visually impaired people?
Starting from education, which should be available to everyone according to their abilities. Of course, there are schools for children with disabilities, but what if a child wants to learn something else somewhere else?
There are also psychosocial barriers that very negatively affect young people and their maturation. Often, people with disabilities are also attributed by negative attitudes of the environment as a result of ignorance and lack of information. We all met with ignorance, pity, intolerance, social distance from these people, at school, at work, on the street, at home.
People have a pitying attitude, fear, discomfort when they find themselves in the company of people who have this type of medical disability. Simply, they do not know how to behave, and this again affects mostly the psyche and self-confidence of people with disabilities. It follows that such people retreat into themselves, into their homes, develop low self-esteem, and avoid contact with people.
Architectural technical barriers
Billboards, improperly parked cars, gardeners and pillars set on the middle path for pedestrians, parks, sidewalks and the like. Of course, there are also owners of various shops and cafes that often place advertising material as well as cooling devices precisely on places that are designed for free movement of pedestrians. There are also very frequent physical hurdles in urban transport, homes, apartments, streets, and roads that prevent access to buildings or services, which can greatly complicate everyday life for people with any kind of disability, especially with the one that we talk about.
The biggest problem is the lack of tactile paths that help blind and visually impaired people to take the streets safely or know when they encounter a pedestrian crossing. Like sound / visual traffic lights. Also, the big problem is the lack of parking spaces or people who park on the wrong one although it is clearly marked that this is a place for people with disabilities, and besides that, we can complain about inappropriate signs for people with visual impairment or hearing.
Communication and information
This is another major problem faced by blind and visually impaired people because most of the daily information is needed in printed form, or mostly not in the form of audio recordings. There are special notebook computers for blind and visually impaired people who have Braille keyboard and who can broadcast sound. We also have the advantage of smartphone technology that has both a keyboard and a sound that makes it easier to get information. But information is not closely enough available to them and that needs to change – fast.
Moon font was invented in the year of 1845 by an inventor and a doctor William Moon. It is a code, or you can call it a system of curves and shapes that makes letters similar to the alphabet. In the beginning, this language was red from left to right, and when a person reaches the end of a line, it was read right to left so the reader can’t lose their place in the book. Today it is like Braille read just left to right because the majority of its users got used to that system trough Braille.
There is even a Moon font used on computers and Moon can be just like Braille easily printed. There is even a dotted Moon system for those who got used to using Braille and would like to learn Moon too. For those who don’t know Braille, it is easier to first learn standard Moon especially if the person learning it knows the written alphabet, or is not that tactile sensitive because Moon shapes are easily distinguished and they do resemble the alphabet.
Advantages of Moon
Moon is an active method of reading and its similarity to the print alphabet makes it really easy learning tool for those who know letters. That is why it is so easy for adults, or parents and friends of visually impaired person to learn Moon. There are two levels of this system Moon Grade 1 and Moon Grade 2 that can be learned quite easily without help from a teacher. Why?
Because Moon has larger characters and they are easier to understand than with Braille, because Braille is a dotted system and you need to remember the place of every dot to understand a single letter, and with Moon, you can just feel the shape and know. So, it requires less acute touch meaning that it can help in large to anyone with any other disorder, disability or problem – like how persons who suffer from diabetes have reduced sensitivity in their fingers so they need more time to understand Braille. But with Moon, they will recognize each character immediately. Those who have other physical or learning difficulties and are not able to quickly or at all learn Braille will be so happy that they got an alternative that is serving them right.
Labeling your world
Moon Grade 2 has a system of shortening words and other advantages that will speed the reading, and make books less bulky, it is also really easy to learn. With this system, you can label any item meaning that the level of independence of a visually impaired person in any space will be higher than ever. It will also raise the self-esteem of anyone who recently lost or got impaired sight and needs to learn any writing and reading system soon.
The Dotty Moon that we mentioned before can be produced just as easy as Braille, and you can do it from the same technology. The only disadvantage is that because Moon symbols are bigger than in Braille, Moon Grade 1 books are somewhat bigger. Also, the choices of books written in Moon is not that big but learning the alternative written language is quite important and can be a good setting stone in learning Braille.