In case you didn’t know, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a “wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability.” These regulations were revised and then enforceable accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design were established. As a sign shop, we must follow these specific building requirements for new construction and alterations under Titles II and III when designing products.

Building Requirements For New Construction and Alterations

Signs containing visual characters are required to have a light to high dark (or vice versa) contrast between characters and their background.

For example, a red restroom sign, containing very light gray letters on a charcoal gray background would be compliant, while a sign with red letters on a black background would not be.

When it comes to Directional and informational signs, upper and lower case letters and “simple” letters of a non-decorative nature are often recommended by many experts for better readability. Strokes must be of medium weight, in between being too bold or too thin. The distance of the sign from the expected reader dictates how big the letters have to be in buildings, hotels, and schools. In the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, the character size for these signs uses a mix of the distance in which the reader sees the sign and the height of the text above the floor.

ADA – compliant Room Identification signs must be adjacent to their identifying door so they can be located by persons who are functionally blind. Generally speaking, an individual sign is used by both tactile and visual readers, so there have been several compromises established assisting each of the readers. Though, it is possible to use two separate signs with the same information.

– Tactile signs must have characters that are from 5/8 inch to 2 inches high, and they require uppercase characters in sans serif fonts. Braille must be below the characters in Contracted Braille. The signs are required to be installed 48-inches minimum from the baseline of the lowest raised character and 60-inches maximum from the baseline of the highest raised character. 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), it’s a requirement for it to be in a six-inch high clear field and joined by both a tactile character and Braille label below.

Four Symbols for Accessibility

1) The wheelchair symbol is used to show those with mobility impairments have access entrances, restrooms, or pathways. There are three specifically for people with hearing impairments.

2)The ear symbol is the International Symbol of Access for Hearing Loss and is used to show the availability of an assistive listening system.

3) The keyboard symbol stands for a TTY or text telephone.

4) The phone symbol with sound waves stands for a nearby volume-controlled phone.

While many think an “ADA compliant sign” must have Braille, this is not the case. Sign standards in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines deal with almost every sign that would be normally considered an “architectural sign.” The function of Braille is to mirror the wording given in a sign’s message.

ADA Guide Signs, aka Wayfinding Signage, must abide with one or another of the ADA Guidelines. Wayfinding signage may include room identification or space identification signs for exits, functional spaces, or accessible feature of the facilities must all be ADA- compliant. Wayfinding signs don’t require Braille.

Although often taken for granted, Restroom signs must be easily identifiable and properly labeled for women only, men only, unisex bathrooms and gender neutral bathrooms, family bathrooms, and bathrooms accommodating individuals using wheelchairs. Restroom signs are to be used by everyone, not just individuals with disabilities with vision impairments.

Backgrounds and characters must be glare-free. This is because glare and reflection are major problems for people with vision impairments, and the elderly.

Signs and banners made for marketing and advertising purposes, temporary signs, company logos, and names are a few examples of signs that aren’t required to comply with ADA guidelines.

For any further questions, please send us an email at and one of our friendly team members will be happy to assist you!