ADA/Braille Sign Guidelines Explained
As a part of The American Disabilities Act (ADA) specific building Signage requirements are defined. Signs must conform with color and contrast; Braille and Tactile; and Installation rules. Here are a few of the main points to keep in mind…
- All signs that contain visual characters must have a high dark to light (or vice versa) contrast between characters and their background. The important issue is not color, but lightness and darkness. Thus, a sign, such as a Restroom sign, with very light gray letters on a charcoal gray background would be fine, but a sign with red letters on a black background would not.
- Directional and informational signs can use upper and lower case letters (recommended by many experts for visual readability) and “simple” typefaces of a non-decorative nature. Strokes are of medium weight, not too bold or too thin. In addition with, Building Signs, Hotel Signs, School Signs… The size of the letters is dictated by the distance of the sign from the expected position of the sign reader. Character size on these signs is to be determined by a chart in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design that uses a combination of the height of the text above the floor and the distance the reader has to stand from the sign.
- ADA signs that identify rooms and spaces are to be located adjacent to the door they identify so they can be located by persons who are functionally blind. For the most part, one sign is used by both tactile and visual readers, so there are compromises to assist tactile readers. However, it is possible to use two separate signs with the same information. Tactile signs require uppercase characters in sans serif typefaces. The characters can be from 5/8 inch to 2 inches high. The Braille must accompany the characters (below the characters) and must be Contracted Braille (formerly called Grade 2 Braille). The signs are installed 48 inches minimum from the baseline of the lowest raised character and 60 inches maximum from the baseline of the highest raised character. (Although the definition of “character” doesn’t include Braille cells, the Access Board has stated that the 48 inch rule applies to the base of the lowest line of Braille cells.) If pictograms are used to identify the space (example: restrooms with gender pictograms), they must be in a six inch high clear field and accompanied by a tactile character and Braille label below the field.
- There are four symbols that stand for accessibility. One is the familiar “wheelchair symbol.” It is used generally to show that persons with mobility impairments can access entrances, restrooms, or pathways. Three are specifically for persons with hearing impairments. The “ear” symbol is the International Symbol of Access for Hearing Loss, and is used to show the availability of an assistive listening system. The “keyboard” symbol stands for a TTY or text telephone. The “phone” symbol with sound waves stands for the availability of a volume controlled phone.
- Not every ADA compliant sign requires Braille. Most people think an “ADA compliant sign” must have Braille. While signs with Braille are the most visible manifestation of the ADA laws requiring access to the built environment, the sign standards in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, or ADAAG, deal with almost every sign that would be considered an “architectural” sign. For one thing, Braille is not required for signs that have tactile pictograms or symbols – but do not carry text. Because the function of Braille is to mirror the words in a sign’s message.
- ADA Guide Signs, also known as Wayfinding Signage or Path of Travel signs must comply with one or another of the ADA Guidelines. In other words, if a sign identifies a permanent room or space of a facility, including exits, directs or informs about functional spaces of the facility, or identifies, directs to, or informs about accessible features of the facility, it must be ADA compliant. Guide and Wayfinding signs often do not require Braille. Your ADA inspector, ADA architect or ADA compliance authority can advise you on a case by case basis whether the guide sign you need will require tactile text and/or Braille.
- Bathroom Signs. We take them for granted, but think of the confusion and awkward situations if we did not have signs on to indicate at a glance who the bathroom is for? Women only, men only, unisex bathrooms and gender neutral bathrooms, family bathrooms with diaper changing facilities. And importantly, which bathrooms can accommodate persons using wheelchairs. Restroom Door Signs are practical. They are for everyone to use, not just persons with disabilities, including sight impairments.
- In general, almost every sign that would be considered an “architectural” sign must comply with one or another of the ADA Guidelines. In other words, if a sign identifies a permanent room or space of a facility, including exits, directs or informs about functional spaces of the facility, or identifies, directs to, or informs about accessible features of the facility, it must comply. Signs and Banners used for advertising and marketing purposes, temporary signs, company logos and names are examples of signs or sections of signs that do not have to comply.
All signs must have non-glare backgrounds and characters. (Exception is for reflective parking and other traffic signs. Glare and reflection are a major problem for persons with vision impairments, and particularly for the elderly.
These are some general guidelines. Always check with your local rules. See more