ADA 101 Part 2: The Basics

You already know that ADA signs are required by law in public buildings and why. You already know that ADA signs don’t all have to look exactly the same– you can follow the guidelines and still have signs that look unique. There’s a wide range of colors, materials and styles available for ADA signage, and there’s no one way an ADA sign has to look.

But… what exactly are the rules?

Let’s start with the basics:

ADA signs that identify a room, space, or area must have raised characters and braille. They are required for both public access areas and all employee areas.

This means that the two basic characteristics of ADA signage are tactile lettering, which is dimensional above the main surface of the sign (typically 1/32”), and braille, which is a tactile form of writing in which characters are represented by patterns of dots.

A closeup image of braille lettering.

The tactile lettering also has to be a certain size in order to maximize its visibility for those who have vision impairment.

The accepted letter height for tactile lettering is ⅝” to 2”.

The letters themselves have to contrast a certain amount from the sign face, too. A light background should have dark lettering, and vice versa. The braille itself can be clear, since it’s designed to be touched, not seen.

The lettering has to be in a sans serif font.

An image showing the differences between serif fonts and sans serif fonts.

It also has to be in all capital letters. Sans serif fonts are typically easier to read from a distance, or at a glance, since their lines are simpler and cleaner.

Bold, italic, and decorative fonts are also not allowed, for the same reason: they are more difficult to read.

There are also rules about the finish of the sign itself.

The sign can’t be too shiny or glossy.

ADA signs are required to have a matte, nonglare finish.

If a sign happens to be too shiny or reflective, it won’t be as easy to read.

Sample pictograms that might be present on ADA signs.

Pictograms have to be within their own 6×6” field, which ensures their visibility.

Other elements within that field could be distracting or even obstruct the pictogram itself.

Mounting height is important, too.

A diagram of the appropriate mounting height for ADA signage.

ADA signs must be installed a minimum of 48” above the floor, and can’t be installed any higher than 60” above the floor.

There can be lots of room for confusion within these guidelines. If you aren’t sure whether a sign requires a pictogram, or whether a certain font is compliant or not, you can always ask our ADA experts!

We’ll work with you from beginning design to final installation to make sure your signs follow all the rules and look great, too.

Contact us for a free quote today!