Almost every public space we visit, or busy intersection we cross, we are sure to walk over those brightly colored, bumpy tiles. Although we come across these truncated dome tiles frequently, we may not consider their intended purpose, or even how they became so popular.
The Invention of ADA Tiles
In the 1960s in Japan, a good friend of Seiichi Myake was starting to lose their vision. Seeing the difficulty his friend had navigating public spaces, Myake designed and developed early prototypes of our modern-day tactile warning pavers, and is credited as the inventor of these detectable warnings.
Inspired by braille, Myake used round domes, protruding from the walking surface, to signalize upcoming hazards, and later used straight bars to create a non-visual pathway. Within a decade, Seiichi’s invention was required in all rail stations in Japan, later being named “Hazard Guide for the Vision Impaired.”
The Requirements for ADA Tiles
After their success in Japan, the requirement for detectable warning pavers quickly spread around the world, and were being installed in the Unites States, Canada, and the United Kingdom by the 1990s.
In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into legislation, requiring public spaces to remove any barriers that would hinder access by persons with disabilities. ADA tiles became an important part of ADA requirements as these detectable warning pavers allow persons with visual impairments to easily and confidently, navigate public spaces unaided.
This ensures persons with visual impairments have the same level of access to community and public services, employment, shopping, and public transit as persons without disabilities.
Additionally, the ADA provides clear guidelines on the installation location of ADA tiles, ensuring all public spaces are truly accessible by persons of all abilities, and the depth of installation has also been carefully considered to ensure the visually impaired have enough warning to assess their surroundings and proceed accordingly.
The Evolution of ADA Tiles
The need for ADA tiles became apparent after the passage of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973. This act required curb ramps at major intersections, making it easier for persons using mobility aids, such as wheelchairs and walkers, to easily get on and off the sidewalk.
While the gradual slope created by curb ramps enhances public accessibility for persons using mobility aids, the sloped ramp removed any non-visual, tactile warning of the entrance into busy roadways. Without the curb drop off, persons with visual impairments could no longer detect the entrance into the roadway. The requirement for ADA tiles at pedestrian crossings became more popular, reintroducing the non-visual cue lost by the sloped ramp.
In a similar vein, ADA tiles are also required on transit platforms, to warn of the steep drop off onto the tracks.
Upon initial introduction, many expressed concerns about how or if ADA tiles would hinder accessibility for others. The design and configuration of ADA tiles has been reconsidered and carefully planned to ensure the truncated domes do not protrude so far from the surface they create a tripping hazard, while still remaining easily detectable under foot, and not so close together it makes it difficult for mobility aids to travel over the detectable warning tile.
Quickly becoming a part of public accessibility in Japan, and then around the world, ADA tiles provide critical, non-visual ques which allow persons with visual impairments to freely navigate public spaces safely and unaided. Just like Seiichi Myake’s friend, millions of people around the world have benefited from his thoughtful invention.
Decades after their invention, Access® Tile brings you the ultimate in ADA tiles. Our perfectly code compliant detectable warning pavers feature industry-leading durability and detectability, all at the most cost-effective price point on the market.
Available as Replaceable Cast in Place, Surface Applied, Radius Curve, and Wayfinding Bars, Access® Tile offers a code compliant solution for every project.