The American with Disabilities Act’s list of regulations covers a wide variety of concerns. Understanding ADA signs is important, and we will review compliance issues concerning business signage with the regulations of the ADA.
This will not be a detailed review of the American Disabilities Act in general nor specifically concerning signs. However, you will gain enough information to ask the right questions or know when to dig deeper into compliance concerns. You can do a “deep-dive” into the American with Disabilities Act by going directly to the ADA website.
If you have not yet read our article, “ADA Compliant Signs 101“, then please do. Then continue with this article, “Understanding ADA Signs”
One more suggested read is, “ADA Signage: Deringer-Ney“, which is a quick case-study project for ADA compliant exit signs.
Why should you concern yourself with the ADA?
First, this is an enforceable law that covers “complaints alleging disability discrimination against a State or local government or a public accommodation (private business including, for example, a restaurant, doctor’s office, retail store, hotel, etc.)” – source: ADA.gov. A complaint may result in an investigation by the Department of Justice, which can lead to required mediation or even litigation by the DOJ.
Let’s discuss signage: Exterior and Interior Signs (Source: ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual)
Requirements for exterior signs are essentially the same as those for interior signs. The international symbol of accessibility must be used to indicate accessible parking spaces; accessible passenger loading zones; and accessible entrances and toilet facilities, if all are not accessible.
Various signs have different requirements.
1) Signs designating permanent rooms and spaces (e.g. , men’s and women’s rooms, room numbers, exit signs) must have raised and Brailled letters; must comply with finish and contrast standards; and must be mounted at a certain height and location.
2) Signs that provide direction to or information about functional spaces of a building (e.g. , “cafeteria this way;” “copy room”) need not comply with requirements for raised and Brailled letters, but they must comply with requirements for character proportion, finish, and contrast. If suspended or projected overhead, they must also comply with character height requirements.
3) Building directories and other signs providing temporary information (such as current occupant’s name) do not have to comply with any ADAAG requirements.
4) New symbols of accessibility identifying volume control telephones, text telephones, and assistive listening systems are required.
5) When pictograms (pictorial symbols) are used as a sign to designate a permanent room or space (e.g. , a men’s or women’s room), they must be accompanied by an equivalent verbal description placed directly below the pictogram. The field used for the pictogram must be at least six inches in height (not counting the space used for the verbal description), and the verbal description must employ Braille and raised characters.
Is this confusing?
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is understandable. The details of the requirements and regulations can overwhelm. At G-Force Signs & Graphics, our specialists have familiarized themselves with ADA-compliant signage. The government provides a lot of documentation on all aspects of the ADA. However, the following excerpt may put the ADA into a more understandable context:
People who have vision, hearing, or speech disabilities (“communication disabilities”) use different ways to communicate. For example, people who are blind may give and receive information audibly rather than in writing and people who are deaf may give and receive information through writing or sign language rather than through speech.
The ADA requires that title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities. – Source: “Effective Communication“, U.S. Department of Justice
The above statement summarizes the objective of the law and is useful as a guide towards ADA sign compliance.
Below is an example of a common error or omission as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice, “Common ADA Errors and Omissions in New Construction and Alterations”
Error/Omission: Where permanent room identification signage is provided, it is mounted in the wrong location.
Result: People who are blind or visually impaired are trained to look in a consistent location for tactile signs. They cannot find the sign if it is not mounted in the correct location.
4.1.3(16)(a) Signs which designate permanent rooms and spaces shall comply with 4.30.1, 4.30.4, 4.30.5 and 4.30.6.
4.30.6 Mounting Location and Height. Where permanent identification is provided for rooms and spaces, signs shall be installed on the wall adjacent to the latch side of the door. Where there is no wall space to the latch side of the door, including at double leaf doors, signs shall be placed on the nearest adjacent wall. Mounting height shall be 60 in (1525 mm) above the finish floor to the centerline of the sign. Mounting location for such signage shall be so that a person may approach within 3 in (76 mm) of signage without encountering protruding objects or standing within the swing of a door.
That last section – 4.30.6 – directly related to our project with Deringer-Ney (“ADA Signage: Deringer-Ney“)
There are a tremendous amount of guides and publications available from the government. The Technical Assistance Publications page is a good place to start if you want to do a deep-dive on this subject.
The ADA is a comprehensive law enacted in 1990 and regulations within the law are consistently being updated. Although we discussed this law within the context of understanding ADA signs, the law is wide in scope and strives to equalize public participation of those with disabilities as with the non-disabled. The law covers various public and private institutions and organizations, with differences, and addresses, employment, accessibility, mobility, safety, and communication. Communication is the category under which signage falls under.
If you face an ADA-compliance situation regarding signage, be sure to do your homework. You may also engage one of our specialists at G-Force Signs & Graphics and have us help your business or organization comply with ADA signage requirements.
Understanding ADA signs is important for regulatory compliance, but the law also encourages businesses and organizations to pursue growth opportunities with customers who may have disabilities.
Give us a call or email us to discuss your ADA sign project or requirements.