Beautiful Signs for a Better Planet

ADA Sign Requirements

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

A whopping 7.5 million (approximately 3 percent of Americans) are legally blind or visually impaired. ADA-compliant signs provide these individuals equal access to public spaces.

President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. This Civil Rights legislation has multiple components, and current signage requirements are set by the U.S. Department of Justice 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, chapters 216 and 703. Some states also have disability rights laws that complement the ADA. ADA compliance is enforced through complaints and civil lawsuits at the federal and sometimes state level, as well as local code inspections. Violations can result in fines and lawsuits.

While the ADA removes barriers, compliance can be confusing. This overview facilitates compliance and reaching the 3% of your market expecting ADA-compliant signs. To keep it simple, we have not included details such as braille spacing, text height and width, and font options. Know that we stay up to date on regulations and our signs comply with national regulations. Consult with your local building inspector, as necessary, about state and local ADA sign requirements.

ADA SIGNAGE REQUIREMENTS 

ADA sign requirements apply to permanent signage in public buildings. ADA-compliant signs are used for the following purposes:

  1. To identify permanent rooms and spaces
  2. To provide direction to or information about interior spaces
  3. To identify, direct to, or inform about accessible features – Utilizing the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA)

Although some ADA-compliant signs include braille, not all ADA-compliant signs are required to have braille or even pictograms. Braille, raised and visual characters, and pictogram requirements vary based on a sign’s purpose.

Changeable and temporary signs, such as directories and menus, are exempt from ADA regulations.

ADA SIGN OVERVIEW

Use your finger to scroll left and right within the table.
ADA-Compliant Sign Type
Identification
Directional & Informational
Overhead
Identifies a room or space
Provides direction to or information about a room or space
Wall and ceiling mounted
ADA-Compliant Sign Component
What is the sign finish requirement?
Non-Glare
What is the text/background color requirement?
Good dark/light text/blank contrast
Is contracted Grade 2 Braille required?
Yes
No
No
Are raised characters required?
Yes
No
No
Are there visual character requirements?
Yes
Yes
Yes
Are pictograms required?
Sometimes
No
No
Are there mounting requirements?
Yes, see ADA-Compliant Sign Placement section below
No
Yes, at least 80 inches above the floor

*Refer to the Department of Justice Standards for Accessible Design for detailed guidelines on topics such as spacing, sizing, and characters

PICTOGRAMS

Pictograms are easy to understand images that convey meaning. ADA-compliant sign pictograms fall into three categories – required, recommended, and optional.

REQUIRED PICTOGRAMS

There are only four required pictograms. Theses required symbols, shown below, identify and provide direction to accessible spaces and tools that serve the disabled.

International Symbol of Accessibility

Anywhere that is wheelchair accessible, including restrooms and exit routes, should be identified with this pictogram.

International Symbol of TTY

This pictogram identifies a public teletypewriter (text telephone or TTY). Via a TTY typed messages are sent back and forth.

Volume Control Telephone

An amplified telephone is identified via this pictogram. The hearing impaired use this type of phone to have clearer phone conversations.

Assistive Listening Systems

This pictogram should be used to identify or direct to an assistive listening system, and it is most common in assembly halls. An assisted listening device enables the hearing impaired to amplify sounds.

The wheelchair pictogram is required in the following instances:

1. In buildings when not all the restrooms, bathing facilities, entrances, or exits are accessible

In these situations, a wheelchair pictogram must be placed at accessible locations and a sign must be placed at each inaccessible location directing to the nearest accessible one

2. On signs identifying areas of refuge or rescue assistance

3. On signs identifying accessible check-out aisles and amusement ride entries

4. On signs identifying accessible parking spaces

RECOMMENDED PICTOGRAMS

Pictograms are recommended for room signs, especially restrooms, because they facilitate quick identification and guide non-English speakers. Because recommended pictograms are on identification signs, signage should also comply with ADA character and braille requirements.

OPTIONAL PICTOGRAMS

Most other pictograms are optional. This means the format of signs, such as one marking a fire extinguisher or prohibiting smoking, can include only text or only a pictogram, or both text and a pictogram. Braille is not required, pictograms do not have a field height requirement, and text does not have a size or spacing guideline for these signs.

ADA-COMPLIANT SIGN PLACEMENT

The ADA specifies that wall signs must be mounted so that the bottom line of braille is at least 48 inches high and raised characters are at most 60 inches high. Wall mounted signs must also be centered in the 18 inch horizontal space immediately next to the door. When there is not enough wall space, use the nearest adjacent wall.

For directions and information on how to attach your ADA compliant sign to your walls, please see our Installation Guide.

Most room signs are to be mounted on the latch side of the door. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • On double doors that are both active, mount sign on the right side
  • On double doors with one active door, mount sign on the inactive door
  • On outward swinging doors, mount sign on the side outside of the door arc swing (i.e. if the door were open all way then the wall that would still be visible is the wall to use)

In rare cases signs can be door mounted. On inward swinging doors, a sign may be mounted on the door if all three below criteria are met:

  1. The door closes automatically
  2. Door does not have a hold-open device
  3. Sign is mounted on the push side of the door