What it’s like to travel the word blind as Google honours Seiichi Miyake, the inventor of tactile paving?


JAPANESE inventor Seiichi Miyake has been celebrated in today’s Google Doodle.

Let’s take a look at his life and his groundbreaking creation tactile paving.


Google has honoured Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake with a Doodle today[/caption]

Who was Seiichi Miyake?

Born in 1926, Seiichi invented tactile paving, originally known as Tenji bricks, to help warn the blind and visually impaired about hazards.

Using his own money to develop the idea, the bumby bricks were first added to a street outside a school for blind kids in Okayama City, Japan.

His invention is now used widely across the world especially at road crossings and on train platforms.

Seiichi died in 1982.

What is tactile paving?

Seiichi’s blocks are textured with dots or bars to alert blind people to stop and check for hazards such as oncoming traffic and approaching trains.

The vertical bars mean the person can safely move forward while the dots means they need to pay attention.

Used around the world, the blocks are usually yellow in colour.


Seiichi’s blocks were first introduced on a street outside a blind school in Japan[/caption]

Getty – Contributor

Tactile paving is now used around the world[/caption]

What’s it like to travel the world as a blind person?

AT the age of four, Amar Latif learned he would be blind by the time he was an adult.

When his sight went, he decided to travel the world and got a ticket to Canada. In 2004, Amar set up his own company that pairs blind tourists with companions to help them explore the globe.

In new BBC2 documentary Travelling Blind, Amar asks comedian and self-confessed nervous traveller Sara Pascoe to accompany him to Turkey.

What unfolds is a funny but poignant exploration in which Amar opens her senses to a different way of travelling.

Amar says:

NEVER travelled before I went blind at the age of 18.

It was a condition called RP, or retinitis pigmentosa, and my parents had been told when I was four I would go blind in my teens.

Everybody around me kept saying, ‘You’re blind now, you can’t leave the house alone’, and I felt claustrophobic. I wanted to study abroad, so I went off to Canada.

Over the next few years I tried to continue travelling but I found no travel company would let me, or I’d struggle to get insurance.

I was told I had to bring a carer. But I didn’t need one, I just needed a sighted companion.

So I set up my own company in 2004 called Traveleyes, which pairs blind people with sighted.

The sighted people get a 50 per cent discount in exchange for being the eyes for blind travellers.

With a sighted partner explaining everything, I end up with such a vivid image of what’s going on.

You also listen to sounds and take in smells and tastes and focus on different senses.

Sight is only one sense — that is easy to forget. I enjoy travelling because I love meeting new people and I take risks.

I go skydiving and I’ve skied down black runs. Sara, on the other hand, is risk averse. We came up with this idea to go away together.

I would help her to interact and be braver, and she could help bring the sights to life by describing them.

She described everything brilliantly, from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to oil wrestling, a sport in which men wear leather trousers, cover themselves in olive oil and throw each other to the ground.

As the journey went on, she relaxed. I think the experience was beneficial to us both. When I lost my sight I thought my world had ended but it’s great that I can still travel and give something back to people who can see.


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