Tactile alphabet-based communication

Alphabet-based communication systems use touch to give and receive information.

There are four different alphabet-based communication methods commonly used by people who are deafblind or have other complex disabilities.

Deafblind manual alphabet

Deafblind manual is an adapted form of finger spelling taken from British Sign Language (BSL). Each letter is spelt out on the hand, enabling communication by touch alone.

It’s straightforward to learn, and allows you and the person you’re communicating with to spell out words and sentences.

Download the deafblind manual alphabet card or order a copy.

Block alphabet

Block alphabet is another manual form of communication where words are spelt out on the palm of your hand.

It’s even simpler to learn than the deafblind manual alphabet, but can be a slower method to use.

  • Trace each letter with your finger, in block capitals, on the palm. Use the whole of the palm for each letter.
  • Keep letters large and clear.
  • Place one letter on top of the last.
  • Pause slightly at the end of each word.


Braille is a system of writing and printing for people who are blind or visually impaired, in which raised dots represent letters and numbers, and are identified by touch.

Although originally intended to give information on paper, braille can now be used as a digital aid to conversation. Some smartphones offer braille displays, and braille computer keyboards give you access to instant messaging software, Skype and social media.


Moon is similar to braille in that it is based on touch. Instead of dots, letters are represented by 14 raised characters at various angles. It’s less commonly used than braille, but easier to learn.

The ease of use means that it works for people with complex disabilities, especially for those who lose their sight later in life.

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