Ever notice those bumpy tiles at the crosswalk? These “Tenji squares” were designed by Japanese inventor Seichii Miyake, whose simple idea “drastically improved the way those who are visually impaired navigate public spaces around the globe,” according to Google’s doodle team.
The search engine giant is paying tribute to Miyake’s 52-year-old invention on Monday with a homepage doodle “rendered in the style of Miyake’s tactile blocks, embossed against the familiar yellow background.”
According to the Google blog, Miyake spent his own money to create the
Tenji blocks in order to help his visually impaired friend in 1965. The dotted blocks were then installed on a Japanese Okayama city street near a school for the blind in 1967. A decade later, the tactile squares would become mandatory on Japan’s National Railways, and other countries followed suit.
According to ADA Solutions Inc., the blocks were eventually built into “sidewalks and pedestrian thoroughfares…throughout his native Japan, as well as Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.”
Miyake’s Tenji squares are also known as tactile warning systems, tactile squares, tactile blocks, truncated domes, tactile pavement or detectable warning surfaces.
His original designs “featured two tactile patterns that people with visual impairments can detect with a cane or through their feet -- providing cues on which way they should head,” according to CNET. One pattern (raised lines) let the visually impaired know they could move “forward,” while Miyake’s “truncated domes” pattern alerted walkers to “stop.” These second blocks were usually installed at the edge of a platform.
In the United States, you’re more likely to see the second pattern as cues of an impending hazard.
Though he died in 1982 in his mid-50s, Miyake’s invention has helped many around the world feel safe as they navigate their cities.
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