ADA Signage in Assisted Living Facilities & Nursing Homes

Assisted living facilities are home to many people who are dealing with a variety of disabilities, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, and physical & visual impairment.  Because of this, clear ADA signage is an important priority. 

It’s incredibly important for residents to be able to feel secure, oriented, and independent in the places where they live. 

Conditions like Alzheimer’s can lead to confusion related to time and place. In addition to this, many older folks suffer age-related vision impairment.

Lots of people who currently live in assisted living facilities and nursing homes spent a much longer time living in their own home. As a result, a larger building with many rooms and hallways is less familiar to them. This may increase their chances of getting lost or confused.

The purpose of ADA signage in any building is to ensure that people using the building are able to locate their destination in a safe and timely manner.

This is a much more emotional issue in a space where people are living full-time, especially for someone who may already be frightened by their memory loss.

An architectural firm or general contractor tasked with contracting signage for an assisted living facility may not know where to start. What, exactly, constitutes a compliant ADA sign? 

How can signs most benefit residents of the facility?

The very basics of ADA signage requirements is a good place to start. Signs must be made on a matte or non-glare surface. People with vision impairment may not be able to clearly see signs that are very shiny or reflective; a non-glare sign eliminates that issue. 

Text on signs also must be a certain size, a minimum of ⅝” high – ideally, larger if possible.

Pictograms aren’t always required, but they can offer a lot in terms of allowing a sign’s meaning to be quickly understood. Pictograms also must be located in their own 6×6” area on the sign with no other elements in that space. This keeps the design from being busy or distracting from its intended meaning.

Numbering for resident rooms is also important, but since many facilities are fairly large and may contain a lot of resident rooms, these signs ideally should contain more information than just a number. 

Removable insert slots for residents’ names are a helpful addition to room identification signage.

Another option many assisted living facilities and nursing homes are using is a removable insert area on room signs that allows a photograph to be added to the sign. 

It’s also possible to UV print a photograph or image of the resident or family’s choice on the sign itself.

An emotionally significant photo is proven to help residents recognize their room.

The ability for residents to quickly and easily find their way around is not just about convenience for staff– it’s about independence for residents, too.

The ability to find one’s own way from point A to point B without having to ask for help is a confidence booster at a time in one’s life when feelings of helplessness might be overwhelming.

Wayfinding signage is also incredibly important in ADA compliance. In a large, unfamiliar building, it’s always helpful to refer to signage that points you in the right direction.

Color-coding, icons, and pictures allow sign meaning to be easily understood.

If a building contains several wings or areas, it could be helpful for each area to have a designated color.

This means that residents could see at a glance that they are in their own hallway based on colors or icons incorporated into the signs around them.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are a space where comfort, safety, and independence are paramount to residents’ quality of life.

Because each one of these place is filled with someone’s loved ones, ensuring quality of ADA signage is a simple way to make life just a little easier for everyone involved.

Give us a call today for help planning your assisted living facility project! We’ll walk you through the steps and make sure the signs adhere to guidelines, stay consistent with company branding, and make life simple for residents.

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!