Crucial Elements of ADA-Compliant Architectural Signage Design

The architectural signage industry has been regulated for some time by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and ADA-compliant signage continues to be a popular topic on our blog. According to the ADA, signage must be made accessible to people who have disabilities, and this is accomplished by following the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. There are several crucial elements of ADA-compliant architectural signage design, all of which allow room for creativity while providing accessibility to handicapped people, particularly those who are blind or visually-impaired.

If you would like a copy of the 2010 ADA Guidelines whitepaper, click here.

Braille and Raised Copy

All signs are required to include versions of their messages in Grade 2 Braille, a type of Braille that saves space and whose symbols can represent, as appropriate, a shortened form of a word. The Braille dots must be raised at least .019” from the surface of the signage. Raised copy is also required for letters and numbers on signs. Tactile characters allow blind and visually-impaired people to read signs by touch, whether they use the Braille dots or the letters and numbers.

Proper Height for Readability

ADA-compliant architectural signage must be positioned at the proper height for readability. For mounted signage, this height is set at 60”. Signs that are mounted overhead aren’t required to have either Braille or raised copy, but the size of the letters and numbers must be at least 3” in height. For overhead signs, a mix of upper case and lower case characters is acceptable. Other signage should, however, use only upper case letters. The characters on wall signage shouldn’t be any larger than 2” in height.

Contrast Between Lettering and Background

ADA Standards for Accessible Design require that signage have at least 70% contrast between the color of the letters and numbers and the color of the background. Sufficient contrast between the color of characters versus the background color of signs enhances their readability for visually-impaired people. ADA-compliant signs will have either dark characters contrasted with a light background or light characters contrasted with a dark background. The greater the contrast, the easier the sign will be to read.

Fonts and Finish

Other important elements of ADA-compliant signage include fonts and finish. To make signage easier for visually-impaired people to read, fonts must be kept simple: sans serif or simple serif. Fancy fonts must be avoided. That doesn’t mean designers can’t be creative, but they must operate within defined parameters. ADA-compliant signage must be constructed of non-glare materials. This means either eggshell or matte finish. The non-glare requirement pertains only to the portion of the sign that is ADA-compliant.These are some of the most crucial elements of ADA-compliant architectural signage design, but numerous other details are involved in following ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Updates to ADA guidelines were recently issued which took effect March 15, 2011. To keep abreast of revisions and requirements and to ensure that your signage is ADA-compliant, you’ll want to refer to the Department of Justice so you can learn more.

QUICK LINK: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/ADAregs2010.htm

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