How Seiichi Miyake’s Bumpy Pavement Tiles Make It Safer to Cross at Intersections
Those of us who are not visually impaired take many conveniences for granted that don’t come easily to those who cannot see. Transportation (even walking along the sidewalk) becomes very difficult without visual faculties.
Today, Google paid tribute to one man’s invention that made those Braille-like tiles to help blind pedestrians safely cross intersections. Here’s the story behind Tenji bricks, today’s Google Doodle.
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Who invented those bumpy pavement tiles at crosswalks?
Back in 1965, Seiichi Miyake realized how dangerous crossing a traffic intersection can be for people who cannot see. Inspired by the everyday challenges his visually impaired friend had to overcome, Miyake used his personal funds to design special tiles that alerted pedestrians when they arrived at a street crossing and needed to pay attention.
Miyake called his bumpy pavement tiles “Tenji bricks” (the Japanese word for “dot characters”) and utilized large round bumps inspired by the texture of braille. The bricks utilized two patterns: round bumps inspired by the texture of braille to alert walkers that they’d reached an intersection (known as blister paving) and elongated strips to communicate when they’d safely crossed the street (corduroy paving). Pedestrians would be able to feel these bumps with their cane, under their feet, or through trained service dogs.
The first place these tactile warning bricks appeared was in Okayama City, Japan, and over the decades, their use around the world has gradually increased. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act made the presence of Tenji bricks mandatory at U.S. crosswalks so that visually impaired pedestrians can identify and safely cross intersections.
Some intersections use audio cues to alert pedestrians that they’re nearing an intersection and when it’s safe to cross, but sometimes the environment is too loud to hear those signals. Tenji bricks offer a distinct, permanent fixture on the sidewalk that catch your attention, whether you’re visually impaired or too busy looking at your phone while walking down the street to watch where you’re going.
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