For the visually impaired

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All the new sidewalks that are being constructed in Kathmandu these days show a series of distinctly colored yellow tiles running through the middle of them. It made me wonder what they were. At a point I even started cursing the government in my head, assuming that the tiles were simply objects of decoration, another case of redundant expenditure so characteristic of public projects.

When I saw a group of workers digging along the middle of sidewalk passing in front of my college, I was certain that they were in the process adding those same yellow tiles. It was too much for me, and found myself agitated every time I walked the sidewalk.

Coincidentally, I was surfing the internet one day when I recalled those yellow tiles. On Google I typed ‘Odd yellow tiles on the sidewalk’. Instantly trusty Google displayed answers on the screen. I felt a fat smile form on my face as I read. Immediately I was praising Nepalese policymakers.

The yellow tiles were being laid as part of tactile paving, a special paving used as warning indicator for people who are blind or have partial visual impairment. The tiles come with a distinct texture which the blind people can feel via their cane or shoes and that way they could follow the sidewalk with ease. But this is not the only purpose tactile paving serves.

I also learned that Japan was the pioneer in introucing tactile paving and that the tiles are used as early warning mechanism as well. Change in the texture of the tiles would suggest things like turning ahead, stairs ahead, slope ahead, crossing ahead etc. The primary purpose although remains a medium of directional guidance. In addition, there is a clever reason for coloring the tiles yellow: a distinct yellow would create contrast from the sidewalk so those with partial blindness could see distinguish it.

This was very rejuvenating revelation for me. I am seriously pleased with the government for taking commendable initiative to ease commute for people with visual imparment. I suggest the concerned authority to add tactile paving at all places in the urban centers. 

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