Readers and Writers for Braille

Louis Braille (1809 – 1852) was a French educator and inventor of Braille System of reading and writing for use by the blind or visually impaired. Blinded at the age of three in one eye as a result of an accident with a stitching awl in his father's harness making shop, an infection set in and spread to both eyes, resulting in total blindness. Yet, he excelled in his education and received a scholarship to France's Royal Institute for Blind Youth. While still a student there, he began developing a system of tactile code that could allow blind people to read and write quickly and efficiently. Inspired by the military cryptography of Charles Barbier, Braille constructed a new method built specifically for the needs of the blind. He presented his work to his peers for the first time in 1824.

Charles Barbier (1767 – 1841) of French Army invented various forms of shorthand including Ecriture Nocturne (Night Writing) for military cryptography. It used raised dots that became the basis for Braille. In this code, a 6×6 square box includes most of the letters of the French alphabet, as well as several digraphs and trigraphs.

Night Writing code matrix

Readers and Writers for Braille

Contracted Braille (Grade 2) with just one character for each word

Reading and writing braille unwraps the written word and brings independence. – Jeff Frcho

Braille technology is assistive technology which allows blind or visually impaired people to do common tasks such as writing, browsing the Internet, typing in Braille and printing in text, engaging in chat, downloading files, music, using electronic mail, burning music, and reading documents. It also allows blind or visually impaired students to complete all assignments in school as the rest of sighted classmates and allows them take courses online. It enables professionals to do their jobs and teachers to lecture using hardware and software applications. The advances of Braille technology are meaningful because blind people can access more texts, books and libraries and it also facilitates the printing of Braille texts.

Braille System

Braille code enables blind and partially sighted people to read and write through touch. Braille is not a language of its own. It is a system of reading and writing in a specific languages, including English, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Arabic, Italian, Hebrew, and so on, without the need for sight.

Braille consists of patterns of raised dots arranged in cells of up to six dots in a 3-by-2 configuration. Each cell’s dot arrangement represents a letter, number, or punctuation mark (see figure below). Many commonly used words and letter combinations have their own contracted single-cell pattern.

Braille Codes

  • Grade 1 consists of the 26 standard letters of the alphabet and punctuation. People learning to read braille typically start with Grade 1.

  • Grade 2 has the same letters and punctuation as Grade 1 with the addition of contractions for commonly used words and letter combinations. Most braille, like books, signs in public places, menus, and most other braille materials, are done in Grade 2.

  • Grade 3 is typically used only in personal letters, diaries, and notes. It’s a kind of shorthand and entire words are shortened to a few letters.

  • Music braille and Nemeth braille (for mathematics) are also common braille codes.

Braille Capitalization: Braille doesn’t have a separate alphabet of capital letters like standard print. Instead, there’s a “code” that tells the reader the next letter is capitalized. That “code” is a dot-6. And, if you want to capitalize an entire word, you put 2 dot-6’s in front of the word.

Braille Numbers: If you go to the alphabet chart below, you’ll notice numbers in parenthesis next to the letters in the first two rows. When preceded by the braille number sign (dots 3, 4, 5, and 6), it means those letters are actually numbers.

Braille Cell & Writer Pad. Braille Codes (Grade 1 & 2) - Note Capital and Number Markers

William Moon (1818—1894)

Levels of learning Moon

There are two grades of Moon:

  • Grade 1 (uncontracted) is a straightforward letter for letter translation from print and includes the alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks.

  • Grade 2 (contracted) uses some additional signs and an elementary form of shorthand, which reduces the size of Moon documents, and generally increases reading speed.

There are two ways of displaying Moon numbers:

  • A numeral sign followed by the letters A to J, which stand for the digits 1-9 and 0.

  • With StaffsMaths Moon code, which uses a different set of symbols for numbers.

Moon System

The Moon System of Embossed Reading (commonly known as the Moon writing, Moon alphabet, Moon script, Moon type, or Moon code) is a writing system for the blind, using embossed symbols mostly derived from the Latin script (but simplified). It is claimed by its supporters to be easier to understand than braille, though it is mainly used by people who have lost their sight as adults, and thus already have knowledge of the shapes of letters.

Moon type was developed by William Moon (1818—1894), a blind Englishman living in Brighton, East Sussex. After a bout of scarlet fever, Moon lost his sight at age 21 and became a teacher of blind children. He discovered that his pupils had great difficulty learning to read the existing styles of embossed reading codes, and devised his own system that would be open and clear to the touch.

Moon first formulated his ideas in 1843 and published the scheme in 1845. Moon is not as well known as braille, but it is a valuable alternative touch reading scheme for the blind or partially sighted people of any age.

Rather than the dots of braille type, Moon type is made up of raised curves, angles, and lines. As the characters are quite large and over half the letters bear a strong resemblance to the print equivalent, Moon has been found particularly suitable for those who lose their sight later in life or for people who may have a less keen sense of touch. It has also proved successful as a mode of literacy for children with additional physical and/or learning difficulties.

Besides the original type formed by lines, there is the possibility of using certain Braille embossers to produce dot patterns (Dotty Moon) in the shape of Moon characters. The patterns are disposed as a 5x5 grid.

Moon books for fluent readers can be borrowed from the Royal National Institute for the Blind National Library Service and books for children from Clearvision Project.

English Christian missionaries in Ningbo, China, during the Qing dynasty used Moon type to teach blind locals how to read Ningbo. Missionaries who spoke the Ningbo dialect ran the Home for Indigent Old People where most of the inmates were blind. In 1874, an English missionary taught a young blind man to read Romanized Ningbo written in Moon type. The Gospel of Luke was then transcribed into two large volumes of Moon type. A Swiss missionary placed notices on placards throughout Ningbo stating that he would give food and money to the blind people who visited. The Gospel of Mark was transcribed into Moon type using Romanized Mandarin, however, without the tone marks.

Dr. Moon's Alphabet for the Blind, from his Light for the Blind, published in 1877

Moon Resources

Reading Material for Children

  • ClearVision Library offers over 14,000 print picture books adapted to include braille or Moon on clear plastic sheets, so that pictures and text are not obscured.

There is a collection of Oxford Reading Tree books in Moon and hand-made tactile books.

  • Linden Lodge School lends from their collection of simple stories suitable for teenagers and young adults in heat-sensitive paper or Dotty Moon.

Reading Material for Adults

  • The RNIB National Library Service offers postal lending service for books on fiction, biography, travel, cookery, the Bible and gardening, in Moon grade 1 and grade 2.

Advantages of Learning Moon

  • Provides an 'active' reading method for people who cannot access print or braille.

  • Being similar to the print alphabet, Moon is easier to learn for people who are familiar with print letters.

  • The large open characters of any size, make it easy to feel and decipher, so may be useful for people with a poor sense of touch or limited motor control.

  • Some children and adults with learning and/or physical difficulties in addition to sight loss, who would find it impossible to learn braille, can acquire literacy through Moon.

  • Even grade 2 Moon is quick to learn and offers space saving and speeds up reading.

  • User's family and friends can quickly learn in order to help the Moon reader.

  • Dotty Moon can be produced by a computer, an embosser and translation software.

Disadvantages of Learning Moon

  • Books produced in Moon are very bulky, heavy, often in many volumes, and uncomfortable to read.

  • The choice of Moon books available is very limited.

  • Moon is seldom offered as an alternative format for bills, bank statements and restaurant menus.

  • There is no portable, mechanical device for writing Moon. Whilst hand frames are available, these require freehand drawing of the characters rather than following stencils.

  • Equipment for producing heat-sensitive (swell) paper or Dotty Moon is very expensive.

  • Moon is hardly used outside of the UK.

  • Whereas a soft braille display can be linked to a computer to enable a braillist to read what is on the screen, an equivalent Moon display is not available.

Dotty Moon Alphabet

About this page

This page discusses everything about Braille for blindness and low vision. It is structured as follows:

  • Reading Braille: Evolution of reading the Braille are discussed with several contemporary methods

  • Writing Braille: Evolution of writing the Braille starting from Slate & Stylus, Braille writers, Notetaker, and Mass production of Braille are discussed with several contemporary methods

  • Braille for Indian Languages: India has 22 official languages. Many of them have been 'brailled' as we elucidate.

  • Innovations: Technology, Products, and Type fonts for the Blind: Innovations in Braille continues on evolving new technology, product or even new Braille-like type fonts.

  • History and Genealogy of Tactile Alphabet for the Blind: For over 200 years, there have been a major war for winning tactile alphabet for languages. We chronicle the developments with latest emerging trends.

Helen Keller (1880-1968), American author, disability rights advocate, political activist and lecturer. Keller became blind and deaf at 19 months due to illness and is famous for her autobiography: The Story of My Life

Reading Braille

Braille is a method of reading through touch, rather than by sight.

To learn to read Braille, you follow the steps:

  • Learning the Letters of the Alphabet

    • Seek out Braille instructional materials

    • Memorize the numbers for the 6 dots in a Braille cell

    • Start with the first 10 letters of the alphabet

    • Add dot 3 to form the letters k through t

    • Add dot 6 to form u, v, x, y, and z

    • Learn the letter w separately

  • Understanding Punctuation and Symbols

    • Capitalize words preceded by a cell with a single dot 6

    • Drop down the first 10 letters for common punctuation marks

    • Recognize when the first 10 letters are used as numbers

    • Look for the punctuation symbol with Nemeth code numerals

  • Recognizing Contractions and Short-Form Words

    • Identify single-cell contractions

    • Read a separate single letter as a whole word

    • Learn letter combinations that are grouped into 1 cell

    • Progress to short-form words

Source: How to Read Braille

There are several kits, assistance systems, available to expedite learning to read Braille.

Also, OBR (Optical Braille Recognition) technology is used facilitate Braille reading especially for those who cannot read it.

Keller with Anne Sullivan Macy, the first teacher and life-long companion of Keller, who taught her language, including reading and writing, vacationing on Cape Cod in July 1888

Pocket Braille Cube

The Braille Cube is made of brightly colored plastic and comprised of three square disks mounted on a common spindle. There are raised dots on three edges of each disk; the fourth edge is left blank. Cube features a 'turn and click' mechanism so the user can feel and hear a complete rotation. Disks can be rotated so the dots form any of the 63 dot patterns of the Braille code. Cube measures 1 x 1. Recommended for children 6 and older.

Pocket Braille Block

This Braille Block is made of brightly colored plastic and comprised of a series of five octagonal disks mounted on a spindle. There are raised dots on seven edges of each disk, while the eighth edge has no dots. Rotate the disks and the dot patterns change so that any pair of adjacent edges will represent any of the 63 dot patterns of the Braille code. Block measures 2 1/4 x 1 3/4.

Canute Braille E-Reader

Multi-line device that the developers hope can become a "Kindle for blind people."

The Mk8 prototype, available for hands-on demos at CSUN, is about the size of a desktop scanner, and features eight lines of 32 braille cells each equivalent to 256 cells per page, at a cost estimated by Bristol Braille of $3 per cell. The Canute isn't a braille display, but a reading-oriented device to which you add BRF files via USB. The multi-line design makes the device an interesting option for viewing tabular information such as a calendar, or computer code.

  • Reads BRF (Braille Ready Files) and PEF (Portable Embosser File)

  • 360 cells: nine lines of forty characters of Braille

  • Supports all six-dot braille codes (including music, maths and all languages) and tactile graphics


Standard Braille is the same size, each character 1/8" X 1/4", it can be difficult for people with motor impairments or less tactile sensitivity. Kevin Murphy created TACK-TILES® decades before Lego for his son. Tack-tiles are small Lego-sized blocks with Braille dots on each. They are used primarily in educational settings to teach Braille to very young children and those with additional disabilities.

Active Braille

First 40-character braille display with patented ATC technology. Powerful notetaker on which one can also store hundreds of books and allows for automatic scrolling of the Bookworm mode. Also offers wireless Bluetooth connectivity for use with computers and mobile devices and braille keyboard allows for the entry of text directly from Active Braille.

  • Refreshable Braille Displays

  • 40 concave braille elements with cursor routing

  • adjustable Braille dot firmness

  • practical notetaking functions such as editor, calculator, clock and more

  • integrated ergonomic braille keyboard

  • HID technology - ready to use, without driver software

  • ATC technology - detects the reading position, analyzes the reading behavior, visualizes the reading position in real time

  • Bookworm function: automatic Scrolling at the end of the line