Do My Signs REALLY Have to be ADA Compliant?

How important is ADA compliance, really?

You may find yourself wondering why it really matters to make sure all your signage follows the rules set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some of those rules might not even really make sense to the average person, like the rules about text size. What’s the difference if the text is a little smaller than ⅝”? Who cares if I use a serif font instead of san serif? Is anyone really going to notice?

These may seem like inconsequential details, but the truth is that these are all rules for a good reason. The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines is to be sure that signage, as well as public spaces in general, are accessible to everyone. If you’ve lived your whole life without any sort of physical disability or vision impairment, chances are good that you barely notice things like the size of the text on a sign, or the wheelchair ramp outside of a building.

However, for someone who uses a wheelchair, or who has vision impairment, the lack of a wheelchair ramp can ruin a whole day. Imagine arriving somewhere and finding out that you aren’t able to enter the building safely. Whether it’s for a doctor’s appointment or a dinner with friends, this sort of setback is a big deal.

The Real Cost of Inaccessibility

A lot of us take accessibility for granted. In fact, for a company in charge of the signage portion of a building project might have a planned budget for signage. When their signs have to be slightly larger than originally planned in order to accommodate text at the necessary size, it can be frustrating– larger signs often equal more expensive signs when pricing is determined by surface area.

Sometimes, sign size is planned based on available wall space. If a sign ends up having to be larger, additional planning is required to figure out where the sign should be placed.

However, if a company decides to go ahead with a noncompliant sign, there’s a real risk involved. If there happens to be an inspection and the signage is deemed noncompliant, your company will be fined $75,000 for a first offense and $150,000 for any subsequent violations. That’s why it’s imperative to plan ahead of time and make sure your building meets the guidelines. It may cost a little extra at the start, but that extra cost is worth it when compared to a potential $75,000 fine.

The Problem with ADA Compliant Signage

As previously mentioned, signs often have to be redesigned in order to accommodate larger text. The ADA guidelines state that tactile text must be a minimum of ⅝” tall. Not only that, but there must be a certain amount of space (⅜”) between the text and the edge of the sign or any other sign elements, like Braille or pictograms.

Typically, construction companies, general contractors, and architects tend to design signage as small as possible to cut down on cost. However, if the text has to be larger in order to meet ADA minimums, the sign must be made larger accordingly.

This can be a frustrating part of the process for those in charge of the signage portion of various building projects. Space is often at a premium when the building has been planned down to the last square inch, and an upset in this planning can put a halt on completion of construction.

In short, making sure that signs adhere to ADA guidelines and are 100% compliant can add some cost and extra planning onto a project.

Note: If you’re a sign shop that specializes in ADA signage and a customer insists on signage that isn’t compliant, it’s best to clearly mark that the signs are NOT compliant on the proofs you put together for them. Even better if you can get written acknowledgement from your customer that they’re aware the signs aren’t compliant. 

A Task for Experts

There is good news in all this: there are people who are extremely well versed in the construction and design of ADA signage. Our graphic designers happen to be part of that group!

You don’t have to pore through the ADA guidelines and try to figure out exactly what’s required of the signage for your project. All you have to do is contact someone whose job it is to know these guidelines and have them walk you through the project.

The aesthetics and design of your signs doesn’t have to be negatively impacted by ADA compliance, either. We’re able to make signage to match virtually any color or style.

At the end of the day, when you contact us for a free quote or a design consult, you’ll end up with signs that look great, last a long time, and above all, won’t cost your company $75,000 in fines. Everybody wins!