Google honours Japanese inventor of aid for blind

On Monday, Google's homepage featured an animation in honour of Mr Seiichi Miyake, who came up with tactile paving in Japan in 1965. The innovation is now helping the blind navigate through public spaces in cities around the world.
On Monday, Google's homepage featured an animation in honour of Mr Seiichi Miyake, who came up with tactile paving in Japan in 1965. The innovation is now helping the blind navigate through public spaces in cities around the world.PHOTO: GOOGLE

You may have noticed bumpy surfaces under your feet while walking on pavements or at MRT stations and bus stops.

On Monday, the Tenji blocks - more commonly known as tactile paving - made their appearance on the Google homepage, as the search engine giant marked 52 years since the invention was first introduced.

The latest Google Doodle features an eye-catching animation in honour of Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake, who came up with the idea of tactile paving in Japan in 1965.

Since then, the innovation has become a common sight in cities around the world, providing tactile cues to the blind as they navigate through public spaces.

In 1965, Mr Miyake spent his own money to invent the tactile blocks, as he wanted to help a close friend whose vision was becoming impaired. His original design had two main types: one with raised dots that alert the blind that they are approaching danger, such as at road crossings; and another with bars that guide them along a safe path.

The textured blocks allow users to feel them through their shoes, or with the help of a white cane and guide dogs.

Mr Miyake's creation was first rolled out in 1967 near the Okayama School for the Blind in Okayama city. It was later implemented across Japan, and made mandatory across the country's railway stations a decade later.

 
 

While the Google Doodle animation features the bright yellow used in the original paving, many variations in other colours and patterns have since popped up. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'Google honours Japanese inventor of aid for blind'. Print Edition | Subscribe