Seiichi Miyake was a Japanese inventor and engineer best known for his work called “tactile paving” or Tenji Bricks. This work aid visually impaired individuals at traffic crossings. In March 1967, they were first used in a school for the blind in Okayama City. Ever since then, Miyake’s work has been used all over the world in order to help any blind people.
- Date of Birth: February 5, 1926
- Place of Birth: Kurashiki, Japan
- Date of Death: July 10, 1982
- Age at death: 56 years old
- Place of death: Okayama, Japan
- Nationality: Japanese
- Other names Buraindokurosu (blind cross)
- Known for: tactile paving
In 1965, Seiichi Miyake worked on something that would become one of the most helpful tools for visually impaired individuals. He created truncated domes which is a tactile warning surface built into pedestrians and sidewalks. They have been installed in Japan, Australia, UK, Canada, and USA. Miyake’s reason for inventing this thing is to help people with visual impairments so that they may be able to safely travel across the streets of Tokyo. He was also worried about people who could not see well and may be in danger when boarding a train. That is why in 1970, all railway platforms in Japan started to make use of tactile warning surfaces with two distinct patterns.
The Start of Truncated Domes
In actuality, Miyake initially wanted to help his close friend who was visually impaired. He used his own money to make Tenji blocks, the first ever form of tactile surface. The first pattern he made was only a series of line that indicate to a person where to travel along a path in order to move forward.
The second pattern included truncated domes which indicate when a person should stop due to a change in transition or direction from a sidewalk to a motorway. Or it may also indicate reaching the end of a boarding platform so they may wait for a train before proceeding and not fell off.
The tactile tiles created by Miyake were designed in such a way that a person can feel them through their shoes, cane, or with the help of guide dogs. Miyake’s tactile blocks were first installed in public in 1967. They were located in a street in Okayama City near the Okayama School for the Blind. Ten years later, these tactile tiles became a mandatory requirement to be installed in Japanese National Railways.
After the enactment of the ADA in USA, truncated domes became mandatory in all sidewalks, train stations, and public thoroughfares with motorized traffic areas.
Celebrating Seiichi Miyake and His Work
Seiichi Miyake died in 1982. But all of his inventions were not forgotten. In fact in March 2022, Google made a doodle to celebrate, commemorate, and honor him. The doodle depicted a rendering of the tactile blocks he invented.
- Sidewalk Paving: Tactile sidewalk paving is often used to provide a sense of direction in crowded areas. Ribbed pavement helps pedestrians know whether to turn left or right, for example, and provides a visual indication of a change in direction. It is usually different in color from the rest of the pavement.
- Train Stations: Blocks, similar to the original invention, are used at above- and below-ground train stations. Surfaces with raised domes, also known as offset blisters, indicate when people are too close to the platform edge when waiting for a train. They’re usually a bright yellow color to alert everyone to stay clear of danger.
- Public Transportation Zones: Raised blocks are used on sidewalks near streets where buses, rails, and trams stop. The bumps used here are often slightly larger than what Miyake designed, but this lozenge paving looks similar, although more like a cluster of cough drops, to warn people of oncoming traffic and where trams stop.
- Stairs: Rounded rods, or “corduroy paving” is positioned horizontally ahead of a drop in pavement. Used at the top and bottom of staircases, these surfaces are often a different color from surrounding concrete and let visually impaired individuals know where a staircase starts and ends, and how high it may be.
- Bicycle Lanes: In multi-use pedestrian spaces, softer ribbed blocks and bars may be used to demarcate where bikers or pedestrians should use a sidewalk. An example is a sidewalk with a central bar separating ribbed blocks in the bike lane from horizontal blocks on the pedestrian side, which would act as speed bumps if a bicyclist veered onto that side.
Honors and Recognitions
In 2010, the Okayama Prefectural Association for the Visually Impaired registered March 18 as the Day of the Tenji Block with the Japan Anniversary Association. A monument for the birthplace of the Tenji Block was unveiled at the Harojima intersection in Naka Ward with a theme song, “Shiawase no kiiroi michi” (Yellow road of happiness).
On March 18, 2022, Google Doodle honoured him by creating a short animation of a person with a probing cane being moved over tactile bricks.