Who Uses Moon?
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
centre at Rushton 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
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
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 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
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
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 learnt 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 a main form of communication for
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 neighbour
who learned it alongside her. All her family have 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 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.
“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 learnt 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
- labelling - 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 catalogue, 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
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 world-wide 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
utilise 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
centre in Ovingdean for Moon lessons. Some have wanted to use it for
labelling 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 recognise
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
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)
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.