Seeing squares: Japan’s tenji block paving guides visually impaired



‘The tactile paving was invented in Japan more than 50 years ago to help those with visual impairments move smoothly and safely around urban environments.

And they’ve gone global over the years, becoming a familiar sight in cities from London to Sydney….’

— via France 24

I was pointed to this by Sean Bonner, who said in his newsletter:

‘It’s a perfect example of how just taking other people into account at the design level can have a massive impact. These are ubiquitous in Tokyo, and at the same time essentially invisible to almost everyone. I love everything about them…’

These are so eminently sensible and humane, I am angered that I have never seen them on the streets of American cities. Have you?

One thought on “Seeing squares: Japan’s tenji block paving guides visually impaired

  1. In many places I’ve lived, the yellow raised bumps form of tactile paving is everywhere on sloping curb cuts and on the edges of transit platforms. I’ve also run into it in supermarket parking lots where one is about to cross into the possible path of cars. The Wikipedia article also mentions strategic use of red and buff/beige; I think I’ve seen red. I don’t believe I’ve seen the guidance use of parallel lines.

    Unfortunately, like sloping curb cuts themselves (which disorientate the blind, especially if placed on the diagonal rather than lined up with the crossings), it reduces accessibility for some while increasing it for others: the bumps are a hindrance to the mobility-impaired (I can vouch for their being difficult to get a shopping cart over), and the QR codes demonstrate that they are mostly for the partially sighted. But I can’t fault the use on platform edges as an alert, especially since they are also a decent anti-slip surface; someone may need help getting across the strip into the train, but system-wide they probably save multiple lives every year.


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