The History of Tactile Pavement for the Blind
Tactile paving or pavement has been a major milestone in the life of blind and sight impaired people around the globe. This particular invention helps
partially sighted or blind people navigate around buildings, towns and cities more safely, resulting in fewer accidents and greater peace of mind for
people with limited sight and their carers.
Tactile in the truest sense is ‘touchy feely’ and for anyone with limited sight touch is perhaps the most important of the senses. Whether that is through
the use of hands or feet it is of vital importance to people suffering visual impairment and blindness.
Tactile paving is a relatively recent innovation that was first developed in Asia and is now present in many countries around the globe. Here is some
information on tactile pavement and the history of this important technology, a technology which has helped visually impaired and blind individuals gain a
new lease of life and opened up greater freedom in their lives.
What is Tactile Pavement?
Tactile pavement is a form of flooring that makes use of a raised area or textured area that is easily identified through touch – usually the touch of the
foot or the cane as the person walks. Common shapes used in tactile surfaces include domes (or blisters), raised rectangles, chevrons, and squares of
raised material. Bright colours are also used in the pavement design to act as a high contrast to the other areas of pavement so people with some sight
will have further warning of an obstruction or the edge of the kerb.
The tactile patterns are simple so as to be easily recognised and they are able to be easily distinguished from areas of regular pavement. Different
countries use different patterns to identify specific warnings. Generally, within each country the patterns used are consistent and managed in a manner so
as not to confuse people. However, although this works well for citizens of their own countries, unfortunately there isn’t an agreed international
The History of Tactile Pavement for the Blind
The first example of this paving was developed in Japan in 1965. The original pavement was designed by Seiichi Miyake and placed on a street in Okayama
city. In Japan most of the tactile pavement sections are yellow although the colour can change to match the pavement surface when needed, for example in
the front of tourist buildings or hotels.
After their introduction, the tiles spread to other locations around the world. The tiles are used outside, particularly at intersections between pavement
and road, and also within buildings to help guide people around, for example in hospitals, schools, and within public transport facilities. It is not
unusual to see such tactile paving and kerbing at bus stops and other public transport locations and depots where the public may be at risk.
When blindespor was first developed there was concern over how safe the material was for people
who had limited mobility as well as those with limited sight. The textured areas of pavement were constructed with relatively large bumps and blisters,
creating a tripping hazard for people.
The bumps and curved sections also had a tendency to become slippery in wet weather, which was hazardous for wheelchairs as well as people who were
unsteady on their feet. However, as the technology for pavement and pavement tracks improved, these issues were largely removed from consideration.
Textured surfaces are now flatter, and less liable to cause accidents. The design of tactile pavement is continually being refined so it is more useful for
people with partial sight as well as being cheaper and easier to construct and fit. In addition, more countries are drawing up regulations to govern the
types of patterns used so the pavement design is more consistent and less likely to cause confusion.
Perhaps as we move forward there will be international agreement on how tactile surfaces are presented. This would in turn make the lives of travellers
with visual impairment or total sight loss just a little easier to manage.
We all take our sight for granted; if you’re reading this then the chances are your sight is good. Try placing yourself in the shoes of a person with
visual impairment for a few minutes while you’re next in town.
Reading this you will no doubt have good eyesight. You may often have wondered what all the coloured street furniture, raised paving at bus stops, station
platforms and in pedestrianised areas of town were all about. Hopefully by reading this piece you will have gained an insight in to the world of the
If not, close your eyes and try to make head and tail of your environment, then you’ll perhaps begin to understand why tactile paving and pedestrian
‘furniture’ is of vital importance.