Death by Tactile Paving: China’s Precarious Paths for the Visually Impaired

Death by tactile paving: china’s precarious paths for the visually impaired
Misleading tactile pavers dead-end at a wall outside a station toilet in Japan by Hiroshi Ishii (CC BY 2.0)

Designed to help the blind and visually impaired navigate cities, tactile paving units are like braille for pavements. These raised bumps and ridges help guide people down sidewalks and across intersections. In many cases these work quite well, but in some places they have been deployed in less-successful ways (to put it mildly).

Tactile paving was first developed in Japan before spreading to other nations around the world, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other countries, like China, have started using them more recently and with mixed results.

In most instances, raised ridges denote pathways (longer stretches between stops and changes). Raised domes, meanwhile, are used to indicate a stop or change (e.g. the presence of an intersection or edge or a shift in direction). Users register the different types of tactile signals with canes or their feet and respond accordingly. In China, however, these cues are less reliable — below are a few milder failures to start with:

When the government passed a law in 2001 requiring “blind lanes” to be built along major streets, compliance was inconsistent. The resulting implementations span a spectrum from annoying to downright dangerous. In some places, the textured tiles have simply been misused as decorative touches, defeating their critical purpose. In others, angled tile patterns force blind lanes to zig and zag their way down a street, which would surely be a bit frustrating to users. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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