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Google Doodle Celebrates Japanese Creator Seiichi Miyake Who Made Sidewalks More Accessible


On Monday, Google’s homepage “doodle” featured the work of Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake. Miyake invented tenji or tactile blocks, which were first used in public places like railway platforms, in 1967 to assist those with vision loss find their way.

According to Google’s page explaining Miyake’s invention, he funded the creation of tenji blocks with his own money because a friend of his was experiencing vision loss. He came up with two designs that could be installed like sidewalk tiles, providing a tactile way for people with vision loss to determine their safety and location underfoot.

Tenji blocks with dots indicate you are approaching danger and should stop. This design is often found before the edge of a railway platform or before a crosswalk, for example. Tiles with parallel barred lines determine the direction of a safe pathway. Not only can people with vision loss feel the dots or bars underfoot, they can also be detected by a cane or a guide dog. Miyake’s tenji blocks are a great example of universal design since many people can feel the texture change underfoot.

The Google Doodle highlights Miyake introduced the blocks on March 18, 1967, outside the Okayama School for the Blind in Okayama City, Japan. By the 1970s Japanese National Railways had adopted the blocks, which then spread worldwide. Tenji blocks are now used around the globe to make the world more accessible for those with vision loss.