Tactile paving refers to detectable warning surfaces used on public lanes and near street crossings for Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliance. They guide the visually impaired people on a specific path. There are many unknown things about tactile pavements, and this guide explores everything you need to know about them.

What is tactile pavement?

A tactile pavement is a surface featuring domes, raised lines, and other textures to communicate safety information to visually impaired people. They come in handy for people who are blind, have low vision, or have other vision problems. Small lines or textures indicate that the surface is safe to walk in, while large domes indicate a stop sign. Someone can feel tactile paving underfoot, with a cane or wheelchair and can be installed indoors or outdoor.

Who created tactile pavements?

Seiichi Miyake, a Japanese inventor, is credited with creating tactile paving, also known as tenji blocks, in the 1960s. He came up with the idea to help his visually impaired friend navigate public spaces like train stations and stairs. In March 1967, the first tactile pavement was built in Okayama city and a year later became mandatory for all train stations.

Tactile pavements have been a thing in Japan since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that western countries started to adopt them. After the approval of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, tactile pavings became commonplace in America. Around the same time, other countries like the UK, Australia, and Canada also started to adopt tactile pavements.

Where are they installed, and why are they brightly colored?

One of the notable things about a tactile pavement is that it is usually more brightly colored than the rest of the way, especially in public areas. The reason is to increase the contrast effect for people with low vision to locate the path. That is helpful for people with visual impairment who do not use canes or other mobility tools.

Tactile paving is designed to help people with low vision and the blind to travel and walk safely and independently. They convey the information in a non-visual way and can benefit people who are otherwise distracted when walking since they can feel the dots beneath their feet.

For instance, when a visually impaired person is navigating a large flat of stairs, tactile paving on the stairs’ edge helps them feel the edge and ensure they don’t fall. Tactile pavings on public streets also play the same role. When navigating a busy place with traffic, a tactile pavement indicates where it is safe to cross for a visually impaired person. They can also use it to ensure they are not standing too close to the edge when waiting for the metro.

Tactile pavements are installed in crosswalks, curb cuts, edges of train platforms, airports, edges of stairs, and emergency exits. Common ones are yellow.

Summing up

Tactile pavements are very important to help visually impaired people navigate and communicate critical information in a non-visual way.