The March 18 2019 animated Google Doodle celebrates Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake, whose desire to help a close friend turned into an innovation that drastically improved the way those who are visually impaired navigate public spaces around the globe.
In 1965, Miyake spent his own money to invent tactile blocks (or Tenjiblocks as they were originally known) to help a friend whose vision was becoming impaired. The blocks come in two predominant types: one with dots, and the other with bars. The dotted blocks alert the visually impaired when they are approaching danger, and can often be found at the edges of crosswalks and railway platforms. The barred blocks provide directional cues, letting users know that they are following a safe path.
Aside from identifying tactile tiles via a support or white cane, individuals also do so with the help of guide dogs or feeling them through their shoes.
Miyake’s tactile blocks were first introduced on a street near the Okayama School for the Blind in Okayama City, Japan on this day in 1967. Their use gradually spread before they and sound guides were made mandatory in the Japanese National Railways a decade later. Since then, tactile paving is now used around the world.
Today’s Doodle depicts the Google logo rendered in the style of Miyake’s tactile blocks, embossed against the familiar yellow background.
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