Today’s Google Doodle honors inventor Seiichi Miyake, who developed the tactile pavement that helps visually impaired people navigate street crossings and transit stations.
If you’ve walked around a city lately, you may have noticed sections of paving with raised dots or bars, especially at transit boarding platforms or crosswalks. Those bumpy patterns in the pavement are meant to act as warning signs to visually impaired people, who may feel them through their shoes or with the tip of a cane; trained guide dogs can also recognize the bumps.
Miyake began developing the idea in 1965 because he wanted to create something useful for a newly visually-impaired friend. On March 18, 1967, workers installed Miyake’s “Tenji blocks,” as he called them, on a street outside the Okayama School for the Blind in Okayama City, Japan. Gradually, other cities in Japan started using them at crosswalks and other potential hazards, and in the 1970s, the Japanese National Railways made them mandatory at its facilities. By the 1990s, they had spread to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, requires tactile paving at crosswalks where pedestrian ramps have been cut out from the curb, boarding platforms for trains, and certain other places.