Japan 1: Tactile sidewalk strips for the blind

Amir is back from Japan, and sent in some interesting photos attesting to that country’s outstanding and different ways of solving life’s daily problems.

Tactile Sidewalk Strip in Shibuya, Tokyo

For starters, here is yellow path marked out on a Tokyo sidewalk, whose surface is textured with the little rubber bumps that are so annoying at some airport terminals. Turns out these strips are quite common in major cities in Japan.

This is not a way to mark the road to the Wizard of Oz; it has a very practical and worthwhile function: it allows blind or low-vision individuals to find their way safely. The bumps have different patterns where the trail changes direction – they are linear on the straight and round at intersections, allowing the users to sense through their feet where they should pay attention.

In addition, the strips continue in public buildings like railway stations, where they mark the way to the ticket office and other key locations. There are also plaques with Braille directions in strategic locations along the paths. The photo below is from the train station at Kurashiki.

Tactile Strip in railroad station in Kurashiki, Japan

That is one simple, ingenious and commendable practice that other nations ought to emulate!

7 Responses to “Japan 1: Tactile sidewalk strips for the blind”

  1. 1 waleed

    i love this idea very much , and am working to apply it in my county ” jordan ” , but i need some help , can any body help me ?

  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    2013 update: now we have these in Jerusalem too! See http://designblog.nzeldes.com/2013/01/tactile-sidewalk-strips-now-in-jerusalem/

  3. 3 ww

    these are also all over ankara

  4. 4 Suitcase Speedbumps

    We have similar strips at crosswalk crossings in the US, but I had never seen them set up to this extent. They are everywhere! Big cities and small towns, all over Japan. I hated them in the US because it made it difficult and dangerous to ride scooters, skateboards, and roller skates on sidewalks.

    Now these are certainly well intended, but they are extremely annoying for the vast majority for people who are not blind. Suitcases, strollers, carts, or anything with (solid) wheels gets slowed down and bounced around by these awful things.

    After I saw these bright yellow (hideous) strips everywhere from airports to sidewalks to convenience stores, I thought, “Boy, there must be a lot of blind people in Japan.” I have lived here for over a year and I have seen exactly seven blind people. (Yes, I have been counting.) This is out of the hundreds of thousands of people I have seen in big cities and small towns. (To be fair, I rarely saw them in the states either.) Out of those seven people wandering the streets, all seven of them had someone with them to guide them, none of them were walking on the tactile pavement, and not one of the five that had canes were using them to feel out the bumps. Not to mention, the tactile bumps stop when the sidewalk ends, so they have to find their way across the street with only the zebra pattern to guide them. I wouldn’t mind them so much if they were just ugly, but they get in the way when I’m wheeling my bags around the airport or subway station. As far as I’m concerned, the only places these bumps should be is on train platforms to indicate what line to stand behind.

    I can get behind other aids, like the music that plays at crosswalks when pedestrians get a green light, or automatic doors, or hand railings. I would like to know a blind persons point of view on these bumps, though. I wonder if they actually use/like them.

  5. 5 k4lmdwn

    We have these everywhere in SG. But when wet I almost slid & fell over. Its a massive hazard. I wonder if the material used is totally wrong and the application on kerb slopes are totally wrong?

  1. 1 Organized Chaos « goodbyeusahellokitty
  2. 2 Tactile sidewalk strips – now in Jerusalem! at Commonsense Design

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