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!

Top 5 Ways to Create High-Visibility ADA Signage

Considering the visibility of ADA signs is important when purchasing signage. ADA guidelines are designed to make sure that signage is accessible to those with vision impairment. But this means a lot more than just making sure each sign has compliant braille on it!

The color and contrast specifications in ADA signage laws exist so that signs are easily findable. A sharp contrast between text and background means that the signs are easier to read from a distance, too.

You’re already familiar with the huge variety of materials available for making ADA-compliant signage. It’s possible to create a compliant sign to match just about any existing interior design or company brand. But making sure your signs are eye-catching is about more than just unique design– it’s about accessibility!

1. Dimensional Signage

A great and affordable way to give your signs maximum visibility is to design dimensional signage.

Quite simply, signs that are dimensional and stick out just a little bit further from the wall are more eye-catching.

Adding a brushed aluminum or contrasting acrylic backer is a great way to add a little extra “pop” to your signage.

You can also use standoffs to achieve a little extra dimension. Standoffs are available in a wide variety of colors, materials, and finishes.

LED Standoffs

You can also find standoffs with built-in LED lighting that adds a subtle glow to your signage. This is especially useful in rooms that may be darkened– like a conference room during a presentation.

LED standoffs add a contemporary touch to your signage. The LEDs can even be made in any color you want!

Super-Tactile Lettering

The required dimension of tactile lettering on ADA signage is 1/32” from the face of the sign. But you can create extra-dimensional lettering and pictograms by using different thicknesses of acrylic material.

This has the same effect as using dimensional sign backers– it’s more eye-catching. It’s also a unique way to display room numbers!

UV Printed Backers

Our in-house UV printer is able to print gorgeous digital images on virtually any surface. You can’t go wrong with classic, solid-color ADA sign backers, but if you want to add a little extra something to your signage, consider a UV-printed backer.

Photoluminescent Signage

In the event of a power failure, wayfinding can become a safety issue. If your building’s dark, it doesn’t matter how compliant your signage is– you can’t see it without any light!

To avoid this situation, you might want to consider using photoluminescent, or “glow-in-the-dark” signage. These signs will glow in a dark room and let people know how to safely find their way to the exit.

Check out our Pinterest page for design inspiration, and reach out today to discuss how you can make sure your company’s signage is visible to everyone. We’ll walk you through the process and provide a free quote for the signage you need!

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