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Who is Seiichi Miyake? Google Doodle honours Japanese inventor who created life-saving ‘tenji blocks’

The Independent logo The Independent 18/03/2019 Tom Parfitt
a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

The work of pioneering Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake is being honoured by today’s Google Doodle.

Miyake is best known for developing tactile paving – bumpy or striped surfaces on stairs, pavements and train platforms – to help visually impaired pedestrians avoid potential hazards.

He came up with the idea in 1965 as he sought to help a visually impaired friend navigate his way around busy public areas.

The panels, initially known as tenji blocks, were first introduced in Japan’s Okayama City on this day in 1967, before being made mandatory by the country’s rail network a year later.

This led other cities across Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka, to develop tactile paving in the following years.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Seiichi Miyake invented tactile paving, also known as tenji blocks © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Seiichi Miyake invented tactile paving, also known as tenji blocks

However, it was not until the 1990s that Miyake’s invention became commonplace in western countries such as the UK, US and Canada.

The most common types of tactile paving include raised lines or domes. The former design indicates that it is safe to walk on a particular path, while the latter acts as a ‘stop’ sign to alert users to potential dangers.

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Although the tiles have been produced in various colours, they are often coloured yellow to help users who are partially blind.

The charity Disability Information Scotland highlights the importance of tactile paving, in a post on its website.

“When moving around a pedestrian environment, visually impaired people will actively seek out tactile paving, as a means of knowing what is ahead of them,” it says.

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