The Customer is Always Right, Even when the ADA is Involved. Right?


In the midst of a project, a question arises from the customer, architect, designer or general contractor regarding the signage and ADA/Accessibility code compliance. We demonstrate our expertise and consultative approach by fully understanding the customer’s concerns, researching local codes and contacting additional ASI resources for guidance. See the ADA section of the ASI website for additional information. We then contact the customer, make our recommendation, the customer accepts the recommendation, and we’re ready to move forward. Simple as that, right?

ADA & Local Accessibility Codes vs. Aesthetics

Well, that’s not always a correct assumption, as sometimes our recommendation doesn’t sync with what the customer is hoping to hear. If the customer is concerned about ADA and local accessibility codes conflicting with the aesthetics of their architectural environment, then it’s always possible that they could argue their case and in some instances decide to go against your recommendation.

When researching and consulting with ASI franchises on ADA signage questions, this scenario is presented to me somewhat regularly. For example, in one recent instance, the architect/designer argued that visual text describing instructions for emergency and non-emergency exits did not have to adhere to the 5/8” minimum character height requirement. I provided the actual scoping requirement text directly from the ADA, which states:

216.3 Directional and Informational Signs

Signs that provide direction to or information about interior spaces and facilities of the site shall comply with 703.5 (703.5 provides all of the guidelines related to visual characters on signs, including the chart that specifies a minimum of 5/8” in character height).

Advisory 216.3 Directional and Informational Signs

Information about interior spaces and facilities includes rules of conduct, occupant load, and similar signs. Signs providing direction to rooms or spaces include those that identify egress routes.

Clearly, the signs in question fall under section 216.3 of the 2010 ADA scoping requirements, which means that the 5/8” minimum character height requirement also applies. Even with this additional information, the architect/designer argued that the 5/8” guideline simply did not apply to these types of signs.

In another example, the customer’s facility, an Assisted Nursing and Sr. Living Campus, included glass doors and glass frontage within the building interior. They were concerned with placing ADA compliant ID signs directly on the glass, so they hoped that they could identify the spaces with dimensional letters above the respective spaces. I don’t believe that it’s totally unreasonable to try to ‘protect’ the aesthetics of the glass-based interior design, but ultimately the ADA and accessibility must be considered and applied, even if it means mounting ID signs on glass. The reality here is that the ADA ‘s intent is to ensure that a blind or sight impaired individual can accurately confirm their location in a public facility.

Document Decision and Obtain Sign-Off

When these situations occur, and the customer “is always right” and won’t budge from their stance, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we thoroughly document the decision within the project documentation, signed-off by the customer if possible. This way, we can both satisfy the customer’s requirements and reduce our future liability by demonstrating that we advised the customer, architect or designer accordingly and in good faith.


Andy Levine
Director of Corporate Education

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