By Ashley Hoffman
March 18, 2019

The latest brightly colorful Google Doodle might make you appreciate what’s beneath your feet for a change.

The latest way Google has enlivened the search page is by giving props to the globally influential Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake, a man who changed mobility as we know it when he made the world a more accessible place by creating tactile pavement.

The late innovator created the canary yellow so-called “braille blocks,” or Tenji blocks, to line the roads with cleverly designed slabs that benefit people on the street who are blind or have visual impairments.

The idea was simple but genius: let the bumpy street be your guide.

The raised bumps, which you can feel through your shoes or with a walking cane, were a language of their own. The textured design usually maps out as follows: A straight bar helps direct people toward safe zones, while elevated domes warn that there’s treacherous traffic to avoid.

The project was personal for Miyake. It all began when he started working on the design out of pocket to simplify getting around for his friend who was losing his sight back in the ’60s, Google’s Doodle blog tells us.

Google honors Seiichi Miyake with colorful Google Doodle
Google

And to make maneuvering around public spaces better for everybody, the first tactile pavement popped up in 1965 in Japan, and then in 1967 near the Okayama School for the Blind in Okayma City.

Tokyo and Osaka followed suit in subsequent years as Japan really ran with the modification, even going so far as to require that train stations to roll it out on platforms. But it wasn’t until the ’90s that it cracked the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

Seiichi’s innovation is so ubiquitous today that you might have traversed along a Miyake innovation today without knowing it. In the U.K. different bright colors can help people who have some sight, like Miyake’s pal. And in Scotland, they use corduroy tactile paving to tell pedestrians of potential dangers or when they’re reaching a ramp.

Write to Ashley Hoffman at Ashley.Hoffman@time.com.

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