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.

ADA 101 Part 2: The Basics

Sample pictograms that might be present on ADA signs.

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!