The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was created in the 1990‘s with the goal to reduce the difficulties that people with disabilities face. When it comes to signage, the law ensures that handicapped individuals have access to goods and services and aren’t put in a dangerous situation by requiring certain standards as to size, location, identification standards, content, and tactile readability.
Signs that require ADA compliancy:
- signs located in all permanent rooms and spaces
- Directional or identification signs
- Life safety signs are also required to have raised characters and Braile. Safety signs are those signs which identify…
- exit passage ways
- Stairwells: stairwell signage should be located next to each door inside a stair well and should identify the floor level, level of exit, roof access, and stair well. In some municipalities it is required that these signs be photoluminescent, so verify with your local municipality to ensure that you meet all regulations.
- Overhead signs
- Flag-mounted signs
- Wall-mounted signs
Signs exempt from ADA compliancy:
- Building addresses
- Company names and logos
- Occupant names
- Seat and row assignments
- Signs in parking facilities except those in accessible parking spaces
- Signs in detention and correctional facilities which are not located in public areas
- Temporary signs (7 days or less)
Hanging overhead signage must be 80 inches above the floor.
Wall mounted signs must be mounted at least 27 inches from the floor and no more than 80 inches from the floor.
The ADA classifies location requirements in relation to door type, its swinging path, and its size. The regulations are as follows:
- Single door: sign next to the door on latch side.
- Double doors with one active leaf: sign placed next to the inactive leaf.
- Double doors with two active leaves: sign places to the right of the right handed door.
- Push doors: on the push side of the doors with closers and without hold-open devices.
- Doors without required wall space: Signs should be mounted on the nearest adjacent wall.
- Signs should be mounted so that people can approach within 3 inches of the sign without encountering protruding objects being within the swing of the door.
As per the new 2010 Standards, characters must contrast with their background. This means either a light color on a dark background, or a dark color on a light background. In the original edition of the law, there was a requirement of 70 percent color contrast. While this is no longer mandated, it’s a good rule of thumb to insure that there is good contrast and readability.
The background of all ADA signs must be non-glare finish (with the exception of parking lot signage) as reflections can cause difficulties for individuals with vision impairments.
Regulations for Raised Characters
Characters and braille may not have sharp edges; remember, people are going to be touching these, so aside from a general safety hazard, you want to take special care to make sure that no one is going to be hurt reading your sign.
Lettering must be in uppercase, sans serif (cannot be expanded, extended, italic, bold, etc.). The letters must have a minimum height of 5/8 inch and a maximum height of 2 inches, and must be raised at least 1/32 inch above their background.
There are two types of Braille; for ADA compliancy, companies should use Grade 2 Braille, which contains 189 contractions in addition to the standard full spelling of Grade 1 Braille. Braille dots must be rounded/domed and located 3/8 of an inch below the corresponding text and be the same color as the back ground.
Possibly one of the most common pictograms seen is the wheelchair accessible symbol that’s located on ramps, parking lots, and doorways in nearly any establishment you can imagine. However, there is also several other symbols that are required in some situations.
- Ear: This is the International Symbol of Access for Hearing Loss, which represents the availability of an assistive listening system.
- Keyboard: Stands for the availability text telephone (TTY),
- Phone with sound waves: Represents the availability of a volume controlled phone.
For a full copy of the 2010 ADA Standards click here.