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Top 5 Braille Signage Questions

Top 5 Braille Signage Questions

Green Dot Sign® experts answer common ADA sign questions.

Braille Signs & ADA Braille Requirements

Braille All Gender Restroom Sign

1. 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. This system uses raised dots to represent the letters of the alphabet and other elements of written language.

Braille was developed in France in the early 1800s by Louis Braille. It is 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. Additionally, through technological development, braille can be written and read via computers and other electronic devices.

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. 

2. What is braille signage?

ADA signs are sometimes referred to as braille signs. The term “braille sign” is most frequently used when an ADA sign identifies an interior room or space and, therefore, contains braille per ADA requirements. 

The acronym ADA refers to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in construction, building, and educational settings. ADA-compliant sign and braille signs must meet requirements established by the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Regulated signage provides the 7.5 million Americans that are legally blind or visually impaired equal access to public spaces.

Braille office signs must meet several content and format requirements and be placed on walls according to ADA mounting guidelines.  Review Green Dot Sign’s ADA Overview for more information.

Close up of raised dots on a sign3. What is Grade 2 braille, are there more types?

Grade 2 braille is one of three types of braille.  It is the type found on almost all ADA signs manufactured for U.S. use.

There are three types of 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, also known as contracted braille, is the most commonly used 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 signage.

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 signs because it is not understood by all who read braille.

Green Dot Sign® uses only grade 2 braille on all of our ADA signs. Section 703 of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design on braille states that braille on signs must be contracted (Grade 2).

 4. Are there other braille requirements?

Yes, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design lists several other braille requirements in section 703.3.

Key guidelines for braille are:

  • Braille Shape – Braille shall have a domed or rounded shape
  • Braille Capitalization – Uppercase braille letters shall only be used before the first word of sentences, proper nouns and names, individuals letters of the alphabet, initials, and acronyms
  • Braille Position – Braille shall be positioned below corresponding text and for multi-lined text place braille below the entire text; Note that additional elevator car control braille positioning instruction is also specified in the ADA
  • Braille Spacing – Separate braille by at least 3/8 inch from any other tactile characters, raised borders, or decorative elements
  • Braille Dimensions – There multiple braille dimension requirements are listed and pictured in the below table and illustration

Note: for signage in California, the distance between two dots in the same braille cell and distance between corresponding dots in adjacent braille cells should be at the maximum listed in the ADA. This California-specific guideline appears in the 2019 Edition of the California Building Code (CBSC) Part 2 Chapter 11B.

Table 703.3.1 Braille Dimensions

Measurement Range Minimum in Inches
Maximum in Inches
Dot base diameter 0.059 (1.5 mm) to 0.063 (1.6 mm)
Distance between two dots in the same cell1 0.090 (2.3 mm) to 0.100 (2.5 mm)
Distance between corresponding dots in adjacent cells1 0.241 (6.1 mm) to 0.300 (7.6 mm)
Dot height 0.025 (0.6 mm) to 0.037 (0.9 mm)
Distance between corresponding dotsfrom one cell directly below1 0.395 (10 mm) to 0.400 (10.2 mm)
1. Measured center to center.

Six Braille cells demonstrate the rules of braille on ADA signs

The ADA Standards for Accessible Design section 703.4 also defines installation height and mounting requirements for ADA signs with tactile characters.

Office Room Sign - Waiting Room5. Do all ADA signs need braille?

No, there are a few types of ADA signs that do not require braille.

ADA signs that provide direction or information are not required to include braille. Additionally, overhead and temporary or changeable signs, such as a menus or directories, do not need braille. However, braille is required on signage that identifies permanent rooms or spaces public buildings.

Green Dot Sign® has thoroughly reviewed the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and includes braille on all signs that require it. Furthermore, to maintain a uniform look and feel across a facility’s interior office signage, braille is also included on some of our directional and information signage even when it is not legally required. This is called out in product-specific descriptions, but braille can be excluded upon request.