The human body is considered to be an example of great diversity, both within its form and being. But in the being of its form, there is a constant denial of many subliminal entities that the human body does, and thus the experience of its reality is constrained by its biology which anticipates the magnitude of their umwelt. 

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In some way or the other, there remains some sense of vulnerability every human is surrounded with, that is each one of us sustains some disability. And, the line of difference rests in the fact that there are people with disabilities and then there are those that haven’t quite found them yet. Thus, there is disability and then there is denied disability which results in an objective reality that influences the perception of the human body within the larger network of cities.

These larger networks of cities claim to provide equitable access to all these diversities but the question that emerges is who all does that all refer to, and whose access are these networks concerned about?

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Celebrating Seiichi Miyake and his world changing invention of Tactile Pavers Sheet1
City Crowds © ShutterStock

The design of these networks is highly capable of inhibiting the autonomy and independence of people, especially of those who recline on the upper folds of vulnerability, that is the people with disability. Because it’s not always the disability that makes a person divergent from the perception of objective reality, but also their physical and social environment

The fear of misconception that comes along with the idea of moving within these city networks is seemingly followed by an oblivious sense of the environment and the people around them. So, there might exist multiple definite and indefinite dimensions to move within and out of in these larger networks, but for people with certain divergent abilities, there is a definite dimension of fear, confusion, and vulnerability. 

In that respect, inclusivity must be charged as a central idea to design(ing), the spectrum of all should attain its dimension outside the objective reality that it experiences. One such striking example is Seiichi Miyake’s invention of the Tactile Pavers

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Celebrating Seiichi Miyake and his world changing invention of Tactile Pavers Sheet2
Seiichi Miyake © Asahi Shimbun

Creating New Senses 

The yellow bumpy pavers that might not even be able to mark their presence within the eyes of most people, make a huge difference within the lives of people who are visually impaired. Similar to the invention of the Braille reading system by Louis Braille, these tactile pavements create new senses for these people to navigate through the various networks of cities. 

Celebrating Seiichi Miyake and his world changing invention of Tactile Pavers Sheet3
Tactile Pavements © Ferrovial Blog

Seiichi Miyake’s design derives its origin back to the concern he had for his friend who started losing vision. Miyake in 1965, used his own money to invent these mats with raised shapes and patterns that lead blind people away from danger. These blocks were first installed in the Japanese City of Okayama on March 18, 1967, near a school for the blind, and since then they are considered to be an object of revolution. 

The whole purpose of these pavers was to provide a better sense of comfort and ease to people so that they can rely on their own beyond the nature of their impairment. Later, in 1970 the design was installed in all the Japan Railway platforms followed by a wave of similar adaptation in cities across the globe. 

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The design intervention was based on a patterns algorithm, it featured two tactile patterns that could be detected through the feet or cane of the visually impaired providing signals and a better understanding of the surroundings. The two most significant patterns become- raised lines and truncated domes. The former indicates forward and the latter defines the need to stop with a series of small bumps, typically found at the edge of a train platform or before a motorway. 

The design intervention has gone through multiple adaptations ever since including pill-shaped bumps that indicate a change in direction to raised lines that run perpendicular to indicate that one needs to look out for steps ahead. With its original purpose to provide safety and ease to people with limited vision, the design was later not solely used for it but multiplicity adapted helping everyone that occupies public spaces

Celebrating Seiichi Miyake and his world changing invention of Tactile Pavers Sheet4
Communicating Pavers © The Sun

Some of the other fascinating uses of these tactile pavements are along these lines:

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  1. Bicycle Lanes: To develop multi-use pedestrian spaces, ribbed blocks and bars have been implemented to designate different sides for bikers and foot traffic. 
  2. Sidewalks Paving: To navigate people in high-crowded public spaces, this form works in similarity with the cycle lanes but its central purpose becomes to direct people on their direction choice. 
  3. Flights of Stairs: Rounded rods in horizontal positions stand at the start and end of the staircase to demonstrate impending drops through these differently colored tactile blocks. 

The invention of tactile tiles or as they were originally named Tenji blocks treat disability as an equal opportunity provider by creating new senses. It stands as a realistic example of inclusivity that defines predictability with generosity. It also brings up the point that design and technology can expand the human envelope.

References 

1) Ryan, J., 2021. Google Doodle pays tribute to Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake. [online] CNET. Available at: <https://www.cnet.com/news/google-doodle-pays-tribute-to-japanese-inventor-seiichi-miyake/> 

2) Mentalfloss.com. 2021. How Seiichi Miyake and Tactile Paving Changed the World for Visually Impaired People. [online] Available at: <https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/577187/seiichi-miyake-and-tactile-paving-google-doodle> 

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3) Mackrell, D., 2021. What are tactile blocks and when did Seiichi Miyake invent them?. [online] Metro. Available at: <https://metro.co.uk/2019/03/18/tactile-paving-seiichi-miyake-invent-8921190/> 

4) Ferrovial’s blog. 2021. Tactile Paving, integrated in the Silent Language of Cities. [online] Available at: <https://blog.ferrovial.com/en/2019/07/tactile-paving-integrated-in-the-silent-language-of-cities/> 

Author

An Architecture and Design student, Aastha spends most her time studying fascinating architectural spaces. Every building tells a story, she says. When she's not reading about them, she's asking existential questions on pretty much everything. Life, Time and evenTruth. You name it.

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