By Aishwarya Agarwal

Tactile paving at the edge of the footpath signaling the cane-user to stop

Crossing the road, easily negotiating stairs, stopping when encountering an unexpected kerb; are easy to tackle for a non-disabled pedestrian. But, ever wondered how people with visual disabilities travel independently? The secret is that they use their senses, skills, and ‘white cane’- a primary travelling aid that helps them to scan their surroundings to avoid obstacles on their path.

White cane in itself is a powerful tool that gives a sense of independence and safety to access the environment. But a complimentary innovation ‘Tenji blocks’(popularly known as tactile paving) drastically improves the way people with visual disabilities navigate cityscapes. The navigation becomes intuitive, precise, and elegant — just like an Apple Pencil enhances the interaction with an iPad! The invention of this revolutionary travel aid, inspired by Braille, was so ingenious that it eventually became a universal way for people with visual disabilities to maneuver comfortably. The system of bright yellow tactile blocks of raised bumps and bars on pavement communicate potential hazards and directional cues respectively to the white cane user.

Fun fact: Google Doodle featured this life-changing invention on March 18, 2019, to honour its inventor Seiichi Miyake- the man who changed mobility for people with visual disabilities.

Google Doodle on ‘Celebrating Seiichi Miyake’

Most sighted people would be oblivious to the yellow textured line running under their feet. So next time when you walk across these blocks, appreciate them a little more as they help white cane users to draw a better picture of their surroundings.

Today I Learnt (TIL) is a weekly series by OMI that brings you interesting nuggets of information that you didn’t know you needed.

Follow us on Twitter for regular updates.

Ola’s in-house policy research and social innovation think-tank! Follow for latest mobility insights and conversations. For website, visit https://ola.institute