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Top 6 Braille Sign FAQs

 ADA BRAILLE SIGNS REQUIREMENTS

“Braille signage” refers to tactile ADA signs that can be read by the blind and visually impaired. Tactile ADA braille signs are legally required to mark all permanent building rooms or spaces in U.S. public and commercial buildings and use braille per ADA sign requirements. 

The acronym ADA refers to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA compliant signage and braille signs must meet requirements established by the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (SAD).

From restrooms and bathrooms to elevator and exits, braille signs are everywhere, but often misunderstood. Federally regulated signage provides the 7.5 million Americans that are legally blind or visually impaired equal access to public spaces across the U.S.

Read below for easy to understand answers to the most common questions about signage with braille.

Federal ADA sign requirements apply to all U.S. jurisdictions. Some state and local jurisdictions have codes and legal requirements in addition to what’s covered here. Jurisdictional additions are typically minor.  Because ADA braille signage requirements vary, when in doubt contact your local building inspector to confirm ADA signage compliance.

DO ALL ADA SIGNS NEED BRAILLE?

No, there are a few types of ADA required signs that do not need to contain braille.

ADA braille requirements vary depending upon the purpose of a sign. ADA signs identifying permanent rooms or spaces in U.S. public buildings are required to be tactile signs, including raised letters and braille.

However, signs directing to accessible features are not required to contain braille, though in most cases ADA visual character requirements apply.

Green Dot Sign® has thoroughly reviewed the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and includes braille on all braille signage that require it unless specifically directed otherwise.

To maintain a uniform look and feel across a facility’s interior office signage, braille is often included on directional and informational signage even when it is not legally required.

 


This custom room number braille sign has raised lettering in teal and clear braille on a walnut sign base.

WHAT ARE BRAILLE SIGNAGE REQUIREMENTS?

The SAD lists several other braille signage requirements.  In addition to requiring grade 2 braille, five more requirements specifically about braille are in SAD chapter §703.3.

Shape – Braille shall have a domed or rounded shape, not flat or pointed.

Capitalization – Uppercase braille letters shall only be used before the first word of sentences, proper nouns and names, individual letters of the alphabet, initials, and acronyms.

Position – Braille shall be positioned below corresponding text, and for for multi-lined text place braille below the entire text.  

Spacing – Separate braille by at least 3/8 inch from any other tactile characters, raised borders or decorative elements. 

Dimensions – Braille dimension requirements are detailed in the illustration below.

Diagram of ADA Sign Braille Requirements

Note that for California ADA signage, the distance between two dots in the same braille cell and distance between corresponding dots in adjacent braille cells must be the maximum listed in the federal Accessible Design Standards. This California-specific guideline is in the 2019 Edition of the California Building Code (CBSC) Part 2 Chapter 11B.

WHAT IS GRADE 2 BRAILLE?

Grade 2 braille is one of three types of braille. Braille signage is required to have Grade 2 contracted braille per SAD chapter §703.3.

Green Dot Sign® uses only grade 2 braille on all our braille signage.  In 2022 grade 2 braille is found on almost all ADA signs manufactured for U.S. use.  

GRADE 1 BRAILLE

Grade 1 braille is mostly used by individuals just learning to read braille. It consists of the 26 standard letters of the alphabet, as well as numbers and punctuation.

GRADE 2 BRAILLE

Grade 2 braille, also known as contracted braille, is the most common type of braille. It is comprised of the letters of the alphabet, numbers, punctuation and contractions. Shortened grade 2 braille is preferred because contractions save space relative to grade 1 braille which spells out words letter-for-letter. Additionally, braille contractions increase reading and writing speeds.

For these reasons, grade 2 braille is almost always used in books and other printed materials including braille signage.

GRADE 3 BRAILLE

Grade 3 braille is an unstandardized system of braille shorthand that is typically used by individuals for their convenience. Grade 3 braille is not used in publications or on ADA braille signage because it is not understood by all who read braille.

WHAT ARE OTHER ADA BRAILLE SIGN REQUIREMENTS?

In addition to braille requirements, the SAD lists several other ADA signage requirements.  Here is a summary of requirements, based on the sign purpose.

 

ADA Sign Requirements Chart

 

 

SHOP ADA COMPLIANT SIGNS WITH BRAILLE

When you’re ready to order ADA signs with braille for your building, shop Green Dot Sign’s standard signs for fast delivery and custom interior and exterior signs for braille signage that is just right for your brand.

Shop Fast Standard Signs

Metal Exterior ADA Signs

Custom Interior Wood ADA Signs

WHAT IS BRAILLE?

Braille is a tactile reading and writing system used by blind and visually impaired people who would not otherwise have access to printed materials. Braille uses raised dots to represent the letters of the alphabet and other elements of written language.

Braille symbols are comprised of cells consisting of six raised dots. These raised dots are arranged in two parallel vertical columns of three dots, like the number six on a dice. There are 63 combinations of dots, which use one or more of the six braille cell dots. A single braille cell can represent a letter, number, punctuation, part of a word or a whole word. 

Braille dots are a code that can be used in multiple languages. Over the last two hundred years, braille has continued to develop, especially through the use of English language contractions. Braille signage, books, control panels and similar products help blind individuals access our shared world more independently. 

 

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF BRAILLE?

Before braille, there was “night writing” that originated in the French military in the early 1800s.  Rather than using lamps to read written messages in the dark, night writing was a tactile-based method that allowed troops to remain hidden from the enemy.

Braille as we know it today were originally created by Louis Braille and is closely based on the earlier military night writing code. Louis made the initial transition to Grade 1 braille so that each character could be felt in one motion, making reading much faster.  In 1860, braille made its way to America, where grade 2 contracted braille developed. 

Other key tactile braille development milestones are as follows.

MORE ADA BRAILLE SIGNS REQUIREMENTS INFORMATION

For additional ADA signage requirements information go to our ADA Signage Requirement FAQs and ADA Sign Height & Installation Tips pages.  For all federal ADA sign requirements information in one place download our 55+ page ADA Sign Requirements Guide.  This Guide contains easy to understand diagrams and is a great resource for all members of your team that work with ADA sign design and installation.

ADA Sign Requirements

ADA Sign Height & Install Tips

55+ Page ADA Sign Guide