Detectable Warning Tiles Around the World

Detectable Warning Tiles Around the World

21 July 2017

Today we see them on most street corners, at crosswalks, in train and bus stations, and just about anywhere necessary to warn pedestrians with visual impairments that there are busy streets, parking lots, or other potentially dangerous walking hazards up ahead. Even though they did not come into our lives until fairly recently, underfoot detectable warning tiles are so ubiquitous with our cities and towns that we can hardly picture our sidewalks without them.

Seiichi Miyake, inventor of the world’s first detectable warning surfaces, began his work in 1965.\

The goal was to create a safer way to allow blind and low vision citizens of Japan. It would not be until 1967 that the first warning tiles were installed on the streets of Okayama, where their use and value became apparent.

As trains are the lifeblood of the Tokyo transit system, it was important to Miyake to ensure that all passengers, regardless of their vision, would be able to safely board and de-board Tokyo’s trains.

It would take five years for the detectable warning tiles to be installed at all Japan Railway platforms, and from there the world began to take notice of this ingenious creation. Soon after, cities in other countries began to slowly adopt not only the warning tiles, but also the need to address the issues facing persons with disabilities when it comes to mobility and safe navigation through cities.

Australia and New Zealand were the next countries to adopt the warning tiles, and with the 2007 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report for Australia and New Zealand, they had standardized the specifics of the warning tiles to be the same across the board. Unlike in the United States, in Australia they use cones instead of domes in their warning tiles.

The detectable warning tiles became popular in the United Kingdom after their introduction in Japanese cities. Using a combination of blocks with dots and bar, these warning tiles are installed at stairways, crosswalks, medians, and transit stations, but they have been most notably installed around London’s most oft-visited monuments and historic buildings like Buckingham Palace. Unlike the U.S., the U.K. uses specifically-colored truncated domes to alert those with low vision to the type of crossing they are encountering so that they can know if they or the cars have the right of way.

In Germany, warning blocks are installed at all rail stations, and just as in Japan, they are directional warnings allowing for site-specific navigation decisions by blind and low vision pedestrians. Around cities, crosswalks and roadways are marked with traditional warning tiles, with particular attention to subway entrance stairs and national landmarks.

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