Blind World Magazine

Little bumps aid blind pedestrians.

November 08, 2005.
Everett Herald, Washington State.

Jon Julnes, chief operating officer for TILCO Vanguard Inc. in Snohomish, created a warning system for sight-impaired pedestrians, also called Braille for the feet.

Needing to make burger money, he walked by an apartment building with faded parking lot stripes. Inspiration hit. He offered to bid on repainting the white lines.

He won the bid, so he went to a supply store, found something called "highway paint," bought a brush and put a set of kneepads in the cart.

A humble beginning indeed for TILCO Vanguard Inc. in Snohomish. Julnes, 47, never looked back. Not only is he the chief executive officer of a national firm that's handled commercial and residential parking lot needs since 1976, he sells an interesting new product.

Since my husband, Chuck, became visually impaired in April after a workplace fall, I am becoming aware of the needs of the physically challenged.

Chuck doesn't drive anymore, but sees well enough to walk around Mill Creek and get to and from his Seahawk seat, but he fell down three steps in a restaurant the other day and bumps into people at the mall.

Michael O'Leary / The Herald

TILCO Vanguard Inc.'s detectable warning system is installed outside the new Future of Flight aviation center in Everett. He walks by himself to physical therapy appointments for his bum arm, and I worry about his maneuverability.

Thanks to TILCO Vanguard, his walks across busy streets are often made easier by Vanguard Truncated Domes Detectable Warnings.

Perhaps you've noticed bubble bumps on the pavement in front of Target or on sidewalks at the addition to Alderwood mall?

The stubble is Braille for the feet.

TILCO Vanguard, a brisk walk from the Maltby Cafe, offers a nifty rubbery product used to make the bumps that are guaranteed to last for five years. It's unique in the market as the only nonskid product of it's kind.

Julnes showed me picture after picture of bad attempts at making a similar product. Companies tried to meet federal guidelines for the disabled by creating bumps with concrete or bricks.

Often within a year, cement domes are worn down, edges clumsily butted against solid walkways that poke up and could trip folks. Or bumpy bricks get sunk in the weeds.

Enter TILCO Vanguard, with an epoxy product that is painted on and comes in different colors. Pedestrians will notice it on sidewalks at the new Future of Flight aviation center in Everett when it opens later this fall.

Our federal government requires certain aids to help the handicapped, including detectable warnings on the ground.

The material should be placed within two feet of a place where cars zip by. When someone with limited vision leaves a building and steps onto the bumps, they know danger could be just a step away.

Chuck said he notices bumps on sidewalks near our house.

Julnes said his company or his installers provide the system for many stores around the country, except for Wal-Mart and others who fight the federal regulation.

The entrepreneur developed his patented system that has weathered winters in Montana and Vermont.

"This is a blind person stop sign," Julnes said. "People who aren't blind foolishly think that people who are, just are. They were 'born that way,' or they 'made bad choices' (sky diving, working in chemical plants, etc.) that caused it."

No one thinks about diabetes, accidents beyond our control, and no one thinks it can happen to them, Julnes said. It happens every day, and it happens to good people who make great choices in life, he added.

Such a caring, eligible bachelor.

Eyesight accidents can happen to anyone. I appreciate a government who sees to it that companies such as TILCO Vanguard make the world a safer place, for my guy and everyone else.

Columnist Kristi O'Harran: 425-339-3451 or

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