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Hi, Laura! I feel so excited that I know more about the tactile paving, also called Tenji blocks, after reading your blog. Tenji blocks are designed for visually impaired people those are unable to move around independently without any guides (DETR, 1998). It is one of the useful strategies towards urban universal design and has spread to many countries around the world. However, to be honest, I seldom see those visually impaired people use Tenji blocks. I didn’t realize it is our fault until I further researched some application of Tenji blocks worldwide, China in particular.

China is the country with the most visually impaired people in the world. By 2020, the total number of those is expected to reach 20 million. In 2001, the law about Tenji blocks set on sidewalks was passed and then promulgated quickly. Now Tenji blocks exist everywhere but fail to work. Lots of mistakes are found in China due to inconsiderate attitude towards universal design (Kohlstedt, 2017). Firstly, Tenji blocks are served as urban ornament in some cases like creating decorative patterns or complicated route. Secondly, tactile paving is in bad condition, causing danger to people. Thirdly, tactile paving is inconsistent, either blocked by some infrastructures or illegally. occupied by street shop owners. Lastly, there is no end of the tactile paving, which is also a serious mistake. (Fig.1)

Fig.1 Mistakes of tactile paving in China (Source: online)

Learning from the lessons of China, designers should be more considerate and humane to universal design rather than treat it like a technical tool in order to meet the regulation (Zhang, 2016). We hope to facilitate real equality of vulnerable groups among social life through design.


References:

[1] DETR., (1998). Guidance on the use of tactile paving surfaces. [pdf]. Available at <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/289245/tactile-paving-surfaces.pdf> [Accessed on 19 May 2019]

[2] Kohlstedt, K., (2017). Death by tactile paving: China’s precarious paths for the visually impaired. [online]. Available at <https://99percentinvisible.org/article/death-tactile-paving-chinas-precarious-paths-visually-impaired/> [Accessed on 18 May 2019]

[3] Zhang, M., (2016). Research of barrier-free design under the background of building smarter cities. Disability Research, 1, pp.39-44.

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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