Creating signage that complies with the requirements set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures you not only avoid fines but helps make your business accessible to people with disabilities. Designing ADA signs with tactile letters, Braille and high contrast features allows more people to navigate your business and provides people with disabilities equal opportunity to access and enjoy an area.

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What Is the ADA? 

The ADA is a federal law prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities in everyday activities like employment, shopping, participating in government programs and accessing goods and services. Businesses and nonprofits serving the public, commercial facilities and private transit must follow ADA signage requirements. Using ADA signage inside your business opens spaces up to those with disabilities and provides understandable, direct information for anyone entering your buildings. 

What Signs Are Required to Be ADA-Compliant?

The ADA requires any permanent, indoor rooms have signs following the Standards for Accessible Design. In addition to this, different signs have varying design requirements depending on their purpose and location. These signs assist in providing direction and information for individuals with physical disabilities through tactile and visual markers. 

According to Chapter Two, Section 216 of the ADA Standards, some indoor signs do not have to be ADA-compliant — these include:

  • Building directories
  • Menus
  • Seat and row designations
  • Company names and logos
  • Temporary signs if up for seven days or less

ADA-Compliant Signs

Permanent signs marking indoor and exit spaces have strict guidelines to adhere to ADA regulations. With so many detailed standards, it’s essential to consult a professional when designing interior signs for your business. Following federal guidelines for proper signage ensures your business is accessible and convenient for your customers. All ADA-compliant signs should have contrasting colors, non-glare finishes and should meet character and spacing requirements.

Some signs that must be ADA-compliant are:

  • Restroom signs: Must have a pictogram, the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) and tactile — Braille — text descriptors.
  • Exit signs: Must have tactile descriptors. 
  • Emergency signs: Emergency signs that are pictograms, overhead or visual-only must have Braille descriptions. 
  • Parking signs: Parking space signs should have the ISA, while van spaces should have “van accessible” marked. 
  • Restricted access signs: If permanent, signage must have tactile characters. 
  • Directional signs: Must have visual characters but do not always need tactile characters.

When designing ADA signs, follow all guidelines to create the most visible and accessible information for readers. High contrast, pictograms and Braille all assist customers and guests when reading and identifying signs in your business. 

Important Factors of ADA-Compliant Signs

There are many specifications ADA signs must meet aside from pictograms, tactile characters and contrast. The federal requirements for signage detail guidelines for the look and spacing of ADA signs. When creating signs, ensure symbols and colors meet the standards set out by the ADA. Specifications for ADA-compliant sign requirements include:

  • Height requirements: For permanent rooms, character height should be between 5/8 inch and 2 inches, based on the uppercase “I.” If visual and raised characters provide the same information, you can reduce raised character height to half an inch at a minimum. For directional, informational and overhead signs, size the characters to their determined viewing distance.
  • Non-glare finishes: Characters and backgrounds must have a non-glare finish and should contrast with the backdrop. Signs should have dark characters with a light background or light characters with a dark background. 
  • Font requirements: Fonts used will be sans-serif. No script, oblique, highly decorative, italic fonts or unusual forms will be included. Signs designating permanent rooms should only be uppercase, while directional, informative or overhead signs can be uppercase or lowercase. Fonts used should have characters where the width of the uppercase “O” is between 55 and 110% of the height of the uppercase “I.”
  • Images and pictographs: Images and pictograms must also use non-glare finishes and contrasting colors. Pictograms should have text descriptors located directly below their field. 
  • Braille requirements: Braille must be Grade 2 contracted styling. Braille should be positioned below the relevant text and separated 3/8-inch minimum from other tactile characters, raised borders and decorative elements. Braille dots should also be domed or rounded and must follow Table 703.5.5 of the ADA standard to ensure readability. Uppercase letters should only be indicated before acronyms, initials, individual alphabet letters, proper nouns and names and the first word of sentences. 

When creating your sign, focus on making it as readable and accommodating as possible. When you develop interior signs for your business, you want to choose the most straightforward and effective messaging possible. Adhering to ADA specifications will provide transparent, inclusive information for your signs and will assist others navigating your business.

ADA and California-Compliant Restroom Signs

Along with following federal regulations, your signage should adhere to Title 24 of the California Building Code. You should follow Tile 24 when creating restroom signs, as it predates the 1990 signing of the ADA. California bathroom signage specifications require different shapes for bathroom gender, along with unique sizing standards. Restrooms in California must have:

  • Gender-specific geometric shapes: Male restrooms must have a 1/4-inch thick, 12-inch equilateral triangle. Mark female bathrooms with a 1/4-inch thick, 12-inch diameter circle. Unisex and family restrooms will have the triangle superimposed on the circle with shapes in contrasting colors. 
  • Federally-approved features: ADA bathrooms must have Grade 2, California spaced, tactile characters reflecting the gender on the sign. If the room is wheelchair accessible, the International Symbol of Access (ISA) should be on the sign. Since California does not require pictographs on bathroom signage, such characters are optional and, when included, should be 6 inches. 

Complying with state and federal signage regulations will make your signs as accessible as possible and reduce the chances of fines, confusion or incorrectly designed displays. 

Design Tips for ADA-Compliant Signs

Your signs should represent your business while communicating your message clearly for maximum effect. Using design tips to craft creative signs promotes brand visibility and customer understanding. To help you create signs that comply with ADA guidelines, here are some quick tips for better, more accessible signage: 

  • Use symbols and pictographs when possible.
  • Choose visible, contrasting colors to make signs more readable from distances.
  • Include proper spacing for ease of understanding.
  • When permitted, uppercase characters are easier to see.
  • Double-check Braille sizing — tactile standards can be rigorous.
  • Ensure you follow all required margins, layouts and character sizes for your signs.

With so many different types of signs and federal requirements, it can be challenging to know what signs need to be ADA standard. When in doubt about a display, it’s best to go ahead and make a sign ADA-compliant. This ensures you avoid fines for incorrect signage and promotes accessibility in and around your business. The more accessible areas are, the easier members of the community can navigate a space. ADA signs are easy to read and highly visible, providing more clarity for all your business patrons.

Contact Signergy for Your Custom Sign in Los Angeles 

Keeping signage ADA-compliant aids in accessibility for people with visual disabilities and allows your business to be more inclusive and customer-friendly. At Signergy, our highly experienced team is capable of taking your vision and creating the perfect sign that meets both your company messaging and government guidelines. Signergy can craft the custom signage you need to elevate your Los Angeles business above the competition.

Looking to illuminate your brand? Call us at 310.893.5707 or contact us today for a free site survey or estimate and learn more about developing the best sign for your brand. 



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