We’ve all seen professional signs in commercial facilities, ranging from overhead signs, restroom signs, exit signs, and even braille signs. Printing a sign and placing it may sound easy, but using ADA-compliant signs in businesses is required by law — specifically, the ADA. The American Disabilities Act requires buildings to place signs that are ADA compliant. This article will cover the most important things businesses need to know to be ADA compliant. What is the ADA? To preserve the rights of disabled individuals in America, the ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, was passed. The law was drafted to protect individuals with disabilities from any type of discrimination. It required businesses to design their spaces to make them more accessible to the public. Today, organizations are required to comply with the set guidelines. Under the ADA, there are specific guidelines and parameters companies must consider when it comes to signage products. Failure to comply with the law can result in heavy fines and penalties. Currently, the penalties stand at $75,000 for each signage violation, and they can go up to $150,000 in the case of subsequent breaches. Guide On ADA Compliant Signage If you think to be ADA compliant that all you need is a sign with braille on it, think again. ADA compliant signs must include specific fonts, character spacing, mounting, the sign’s finish, pictograms, and more. Because requirements vary, when in doubt contact your local building inspector to confirm ADA signage compliance. Let’s cover the minimum requirements for ADA-compliant signs next. ADA Regulations: Minimum Requirements Based on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design document, below is a quick overview of essential ADA sign requirements to be aware of. Non-Glare Finish When placing an indoor sign, it is critical that the ADA sign is free of glare. People with impaired vision cannot process reflection and glare properly. It is crucial to have a non-glare finish on your sign to keep it visible for vision-impaired visitors. The ADA requirements state that using an eggshell or matte finish should suffice. Although this is not specific, businesses can use any type of finish so long as it doesn’t have a glare and is within the compliance guidelines of the ADA. Note: This requirement does not apply to outdoor signage and is specifically for indoor signs like restrooms, directories, or signs for other permanent rooms within the building. High Contrast The ADA strictly mandates the use of high contrast in the signage. A high contrast sign is essential to improving its visibility. If the script tends to blend in with the sign, chances are it’s too difficult for visually-impaired people to read. Strong contrast, such as light characters over a dark background, can help the lettering on the sign pop, making it easier for people to read and navigate the space. All signs that contain visual characters must have a high dark to light (or vice versa) contrast between characters and their background. The law does not explicitly state how high the contrast with the sign background must be, but experts state that a 70 contrast should suffice. The ADA standard of Accessible design, drafted in 2010, has set specific signage requirements for contrast. Colors are also not specified under the standards. To meet ADA sign requirements, there just needs to be a high contrast between the colors. A good rule of thumb is to use black text on a white background. This will help improve your sign’s readability and make it ADA compliant. Font And Character Typefaces should be easy to read under the ADA, and you don’t want to use a font of unusual form. And remember, that any type of sign also needs to be high contrast, such as having dark characters over a light background. Specific fonts can make reading difficult for people with visual impairment. Simple fonts such as sans serif font, Verdana, and Helvetica are usually the go-to choices for businesses in need of ADA signage. Case Buildings must abide by the lower case and upper case rules for sign types and individual letters of the alphabet. The ADA regulations require signs to have raised characters in the upper case. These rules can change though, depending on the type of sign-in question. For example, informational and directional signs use both lower case and upper case letters. Size The ADA requires letters to be of an appropriate size so people with visual impairment can easily read them. The ADA sets precise requirements regarding the size of the letters on the sign. They are as follows: The height of tactile characters on the sign should vertically measure between 5/8 inch and 2 inches from the base. The height of the uppercase letter should be based on the height of an uppercase “I.” If the raised characters and visuals show the same information, the tactile characters’ height can be reduced by ½ inch. Spacing The ADA requires your signs to have an adequate amount of spacing between characters for them to be easily visible to people with visual impairment. This ensures that the characters are not pressed together and are easy to understand. For character spacing, you would measure the distance between the closest points of adjacent raised characters within a message, excluding word spaces. The ADA has the following guidelines on spacing: For characters that have a rectangular cross-section, spacing should be 1/8 of an inch and at most four times the character stroke width between each individual raised characters For characters with non-rectangular cross-sections, spacing should be 1/16 of an inch and at most four times the character stroke width between each individual raised characters If the sign has decorative elements or raised borders, the character must be 3/8 of an inch away from them. Stroke Thickness As the name suggests, stroke thickness refers to the thickness of the characters. As per the ADA standards, the thickness of the stroke of the uppercase “I” should be 15 percent minimum of the character height. This is done to ensure that the sign is clearly visible to visually impaired people. Corresponding Braille Text Beyond catering to people with visual impairment, ADA also requires businesses to cater to people with reduced or no vision. This is why it is essential to have braille text on your signs. It allows people with vision issues to easily navigate around the space and gain important information on where they are and where they need to go. Furthermore, the inclusion of braille on your signs can make public accommodations and public areas more welcoming. The ADA has strict guidelines regarding the inclusion of braille text to your signs. The law requires businesses to have braille text on any sign pertaining to a permanent space in the premises, for example, restrooms. The law has set specific standards regarding braille level and the type of braille dots that need to be used. Braille Level: The level of the braille should be used at a grade 2 reading level to simplify understanding. Braille dots design: The dots should be either rounded or domed in shape. Dot base diameter: The base diameter of the dot should be between 0.059 and 0.063 inches. Distance dots in the same cell: Two braille dots should have a distance between 0.090 to 0.100 inches from each other. This distance is measured from the center of each dot. Distance between dots in adjacent cells: Two braille dots in adjacent cells must have a difference of 0.241 to 0.300 inches away from each other. This distance is measured from the center of each dot. Height of the dot: The height of the dots should measure between 0.025 and 0.037 inches. Distance of dots from one cell below: Dots should have a distance between 0.395 and 0.400 inches away from the dots in the cell directly below them. It is measured from the center of each dot. Note that there are a few differences in requirements depending on the state you’re in. For example, California has set up its own requirements on how to add braille text. This is different from federal-level laws. Under California state law, there are two significant differences between federal law and state law. These are as follows: Distance between dots within the same cell: 0.1 inches Distance between dots in adjacent cells: 0.3 inches Suitable Mounting Although it is crucial to have the characteristics of the sign-in line with the requirements set by the ADA, positioning, and mounting of the sign are just as important. ADA guidelines require businesses to ensure that room identification signs should be appropriately placed for proper viewing distance. This is done to offer convenience and make them easy to spot. Under the ADA, specific standards need to be followed to be compliant. The first standard is to place the sign on the nearest adjacent wall to the room’s door or space that needs to be identified. This is to help “functionally blind” people easily locate the sign and show them where it leads. Furthermore, the height of the sign should be between 48 and 60 inches from the ground surface to ensure they’re easily visible to people. Why Are ADA Signs Important? Having ADA-compliant signs in your business is critical. People with any type of disability or impairment struggle to find their way around a building. But, compliant signs help visitors feel safe and easily navigate the building. Also, incorporating ADA-compliant signs shows your guests that they are valued. These special signs are not easy to make, given all the specifications. If your business has ADA signs in place, it will make your guests feel welcome and encourage them to return to your business. Finally, and probably the most crucial reason is a legal obligation. The justice department has established specific regulations that require organizations to have ADA-compliant signs in their spaces. These regulations apply to all new buildings or any buildings undergoing renovation. Failure to comply with ADA sign requirements can lead to heavy fines and penalties. When looking for a service provider that can make ADA-compliant signs for you, you need to ensure that they are aware of all the requirements of the ADA and create signage accordingly. If your business is in Massachusetts and you are looking to get ADA display signs for your space, Sunshine Sign is here to help. Do all signs need to be ADA compliant? There are a number of signs that are not required to be ADA compliant. Signs for advertising and marketing purposes, building addresses, directories, company logos and names, menus, parking signs, and temporary signs don’t need to be ADA compliant. Temporary signs are those used for 7 days or less. How Sunshine Sign Can Help At Sunshine Sign, our sign designers are skilled in creating quality, creative and functional signage for your space. The team works tirelessly to ensure that we fulfill all your signage needs. That’s why we’ve created a unique process to ensure that all the legalities are taken care of while simultaneously ensuring that your signs are on-brand. Our process involves designing the sign, analyzing your site, ensuring that it complies with regulations like the ADA signage requirements, building the design, and implementing it. Sunshine Sign will also offer you permit acquisition for your new construction and project management expertise to ensure that the process is smooth. We understand the importance of ADA signage. We have specific ADA-compliant sign guidelines in place which our ADA sign expert follows when designing any signage for a client. We know that your business’s legal obligation is to stay compliant with the ADA requirements. If you want to renovate your building or construct a new space for your business, ADA accessibility guidelines can be a major concern. Reach out to us today and we’ll help you with all the aspects of your ADA compliance.