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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that has been in place since 1990. This law protects disabled individuals from discrimination within all spaces open to the public, ensuring that their opportunities and access options are equal. As of March 2011, compliance is required and enforceable by federal law.

When you think about ADA compliance and your business, several obvious opportunities come to mind, such as restrooms, elevator access, and the doors at the entrances and exits to your facility. A less obvious but still essential aspect of ADA compliance is ensuring that the signage on these restrooms, elevators, entrances, and more meet the ADA’s requirements. Fortunately, you don’t have to determine what is compliant by yourself: The ADA guidelines have specific parameters for signage products. It’s essential to take this aspect of your facility design seriously: If your signs do not meet ADA standards, you are at serious risk for facing large fines – up to $75,000 for one signage violation and up to $150,000 for subsequent violations.

If you are ready to create the best experience possible for everyone who enters your building, Lettermans’ expert product designers can help. Team members can assist with determining exactly what ADA signage is necessary within your facility and where. By providing numerous, customizable ADA compliant products and our installation knowledge, we can ensure that you avoid the hefty fines and guide everyone through your buildings with ease. Are you ready to get started? Let’s consider the five most common sign violations.

Raised Text and Braille on Permanent Identification Signs 

It’s common to experience confusion on what signs do or don’t need raised text and braille. Here’s an easy question to answer to decide this: Will this sign identify a permanent location? If so, then it needs to have raised text and braille. 

The first thing you need to know about designing an ADA compliant sign is that your choices must meet very specific requirements. The characters or letters you use must meet appearance standards that ensure they are easily read by as many people as possible, including visually impaired and/or read braille. Here’s everything you need to know. 

Raised characters must:

  • Be uppercase, sans serif, and free of oblique, script, or italic characters.
  • Be raised a minimum of 1/32 inch from their background.
  • Be a height between 5/8 inch and 2 inches.
  • Be accompanied by Grade 2 braille dots and positioned directly below the corresponding text.

Braille must:

  • Be separated a minimum of 3/8 inch from raised text and other raised objects.
  • Be domed or rounded, not flat or squared.

Other Considerations: 

  • Overhead and projection mounted signs do not require raised characters or braille dots, but the characters should be designed to meet their required viewing distance.
  • Overhead signs should have a minimum of 2-inch character height.
  • Upper and lower case characters are permissible on overhead and projected mounted signs.

Location of Braille on ADA Compliant Signs

The location of where the braille is placed on a sign is another common oversight or violation that is typically seen. The braille needs to be directly below the text. Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon to see signs with braille placed near the sign using label makers – that’s not legal.

The critical factor is that the location of where you place the braille is significant. For most things in life, consistency is key. However, when it comes to braille, it’s imperative. People with impaired vision have to rely on the fact that every sign will be consistent from room to room and especially from one building to another building down the street. 

When going through these common mistakes and violations, remember why each of these rules is given in the first place. Buildings should be accessible to all people and that means creating ways for everyone to navigate it. It’s also important because you want your facility to be welcoming to everybody – no matter who they are, no matter what their abilities. 

Finish and Contrast on ADA Compliant Signage 

Once you have laid out your sign content in characters that meet the size and design requirements, it’s time to consider your finish and contrast options. Finish refers to the surface of your signs; are they shiny and reflective, or matte? Contrast is a principle that refers to the way that you employ opposite elements, such as light and dark. For example, a high contrast composition uses pure black and white elements, while a lower contrast composition would use different shades of gray. You need to keep in mind two rules regarding these design elements to create compliant, readable signage.

  • Characters and their background need to have a non-glare finish.
  • Characters must contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background.

When talking about color, it’s important to note that we not only help keep your signage ADA compliant, but also help you stick to your brand. Signs are a great way to display your brand colors and even logo! 

Pictogram Fields and Placement Requirements 

Printed imagery is becoming a trend more and more with signage. These images sometimes have different contrast and colors in them. Although these images may catch your eye (and are great for branding), you have to be careful that your image does not make your text difficult to read. For example, if you have an image of a field of flowers, black text may not be the best choice to have over this picture. 

Many signs, such as those for restrooms, contain pictograms. These helpful images also need to meet a few simple ADA requirements if used on your facility signage. 

  • Pictograms must be placed in a 6 inch high “field” area, which should be free of raised characters or braille dots.
  • When text and braille dots are used with a pictogram, they should be placed directly below the pictogram field.
  • Like the characters on a sign, pictograms should have a non-glare finish and contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background. 

Mounting Heights and Positioning Rules for ADA Compliant Signs 

Now that you have designed and created signs that meet the three requirements listed above, it’s time to hang them in your facility. Exactly where you install your new signs is also regulated by the ADA and follows suit as to why consistency is incredibly important. When your customers or guests can anticipate where your signs are located, it leads to a better overall experience as they navigate your building. Inpro offers installation services to help customers avoid these mistakes. Here are the installation instructions that need to be followed, including several helpful diagrams, below.

  • Signs with raised characters should be mounted on the latch side of the door.
  • The distance between the finished floor and the baseline of the raised characters must be between 60 inches (from the highest tactile character) and 48 inches (from the lowest tactile character).
  • The sign should be located so that a clear floor space (18 x 18-inch minimum, centered on the tactile characters) is provided beyond the arc of the door – check out the diagram below.
  • Overhead signs must have a minimum clearance of 80 inches from the bottom of the sign to the finished floor.
  • If a projection mounted sign extends more than 4 inches from the wall, it must also have an 80-inch clearance from the bottom of the sign to the finished floor.

Protect Your Customers and Your Company

It’s easy to do! Designing and installing ADA compliant signs at your business ensures that you can easily and safely serve all members of the public. Whether you are opening a new location, completing a remodel, or just need a refresher, get the information you need by contacting one of our signage product experts.