Tactile alphabet-based communication

There are a number of tactile communication systems which use the alphabet so that someone can give and receive information through the sense of touch rather than sight or hearing.

These are the main ones that are used by people who are deafblind or have other complex disabilities.

Deafblind Manual 

Deafblind Manual is an adapted form of finger spelling taken from British Sign Language (BSL).

Each letter is spelt out onto the hand of the other person rather than your own. If you have a hearing impairment, you can see what someone fingerspells onto their own hand. But if you also have a visual impairment, you won’t be able to see this, of course. Hence the other person spelling the letters directly onto your hand.

Most letter signs are the same in BSL and Deafblind Manual. Just a few are adapted to make them work better when using touch rather than sight.

It’s easy to learn - and means that you, and the person you’re communicating with, can have a conversation by spelling out words and sentences.

Say hello to Dan

Watch Dan communicating with Deafblind Manual and sharing his love of travelling.

Audio described version of Say Hello to Dan with transcript.

Deafblind Manual alphabet card

To order a printed Deafblind Manual alphabet card, contact our Sense Information and Advice team.

Alternatively you can download a copy below.

Block alphabet

Block alphabet is another manual form of communication where words are spelt out on the palm of a person who is deafblind using block capital letters.

It’s even simpler to learn than Deafblind Manual, though it takes more time to spell out words.

It can be a useful way of communicating for people who lose their sight and hearing later in life.

Here’s how it works

  • Trace each letter with your finger, in block capitals, on the palm of your other hand.
  • 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. The person using it reads the words or numbers by running their finger along the line of braille dots.

As well as being used on paper, braille can now also be used on many other pieces of digital equipment. For example, some smartphones offer braille displays, and braille computer keyboards give the user 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.

This can be helpful for people with complex disabilities, and for those who lose their sight later in life.

Get in touch

Get in touch for information and advice about communication

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