OVERVIEW OF THE
Signage in public areas of all buildings is subject compliance
with federal, state and local code requirements, requiring the use of certain
symbols, messages and graphic standards. To provide adequate signing for
all users, including persons with disabilities, the Federal Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), first published in the Federal Register on July
26, 1991 describes specific requirements for the use of typestyles, minimum
type sizes, message contrast, symbols, Braille characters, tactile messages,
sign background gloss and sign placement. A summation of the ADA as it applies
to signage can be found in the Society for Environmental Graphic Design
White Paper, available through the SEGD, 401 F Street N. W.,
Suite 333, Washington, D.C. 20001.
State and local sign codes vary considerably, such as symbol signs
for toilet room doors required in California
The accessibility requirements for informational signs, such as,
building directories can seem confusing. Since the ADA does not specifically
address informational signs, many people think that they are exempt from
the regulations. This is not the case. This type of sign must comply with
the general requirements for sign finish, contrast and character proportion
under the signage section of the ADA. Informational signs do not require
Braille or tactile characters and symbols, but other signage requirements
Building Directories mounted behind glass must use non-glare glass.
Character proportions must meet the proper width to height ratio.
Characters and backgrounds of signs must be of an eggshell, matte
or other non-glare finish.
Characters and symbols must contrast with their background (light
background with dark letters or dark background with light letters).
Directories can be installed either as a projecting unit or integrated
into a wall surface. Projecting units, however, must provide a skirt or
cane strike to meet ADA requirements
Meeting these requirements will make informational signage easier
to read for everyone. To determine sign requirements for state and local
codes, contact your local Sign Biz Sign Design Professional.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect on January 26,
1992. The law requires these establishments to remove architectural and
communication barriers where "readily achievable". This means
established business must make a good faith effort to accomodate the disabled,
which includes the installation of ADA tactile and braille signage for the
benefit of the visually impaired.
The ADA is an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with similar enforcement
provisions, which are as follows:
A. Any person may file a federal lawsuit, either for individual discrimination
or as a class action.
B. Any person may request the Department of Justice to investigate and act
upon an ADA discrimination claim.
C. The attorney General may also file a civil action suit in cases of general
The courts can:
A. Order a facility made ADA accessible.
B. Award monetary damages of up to $50,000 for the first ADA violation and
$100,000 for each subsequent violation.
Tax deductions of up to $15,000 for expenses incurred in the removal of
architectural barriers are allowed by the IRS.
AND STANDARDS ADA OF COMPLIANCE
facilities defined as public accommodations must take steps to remove "architectural
and communications barriers" by January 26, 1992, where such removal
is "readily achievable" or easily accomplishable and able to be
carried out without much difficulty or expense".
to existing facilities defined as public accomodations or commercial facilities
must generally be "readily accessible to and usable by the disabled,
to the maximum extent feasible" if the alterations is begun after January
26, 1992. When ADA alterations are made to a "primary function area"
an accessible path of travel" to the altered area, and the restrooms
area, telephones and drinking fountains must be made. The additional accessibility
costs need not be "disproportionate" relative to the overall alteration.
construction of public accomodations or commercial facilities must be "readily
accessible and usable by "the disabled if the ADA facility is first
occupied after January 26, 1993, assuming the last official permits were
issued after January 26, 1992.
2. Food/drink service
4. Public gathering
7. Transportation station
8. Public display/collection
11. Social service
ADA facility whose operations will affect commerce, that are intended for
non-residential use by a private entity, and facilities that are not either
covered or expressly exempted from coverage under the Fair Housing Act of
1968, or ADA act of 1992, and cannot be aircraft or railroad cars.
Exemption–Any private club, religious entity, or government entity.
AND STANDARDS OF ADA COMPLIANCE
Existing facilities defined as public accommodations must take steps to
remove "architectural and communications barriers" by January
26, 1992, where such removal is "readily achievable" or "easily
accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense".
priority should be given to ADA measures that will enable individuals with
disabilities to "get in the front door", followed by measures
providing ADA access to goods and services and providing access to restroom
facilities. If physical barrier removal is not "readily achievable",
the facility may be required to take appropriate alternative ADA measures,
such as having store employees assist in removing articles from high shelves.
alterations to existing facilities defined as public accommodations or commercial
facilities must be "readily accessible to and usable by the disabled,
to the maximum extent feasible" if the ADA alteration is begun after
January 26, 1992. When alterations are made to a "primary functions
area," an accessible path of travel" to the altered area, and
the restrooms, telephones and drinking fountains must be made. The additional
ADA accessibility costs need not be "disproportionate" relative
to the overall alteration.
New construction of public accommodations or commercial facilities must
be "readily accessible and usable by" the disabled if the facility
is first occupied after January 26, 1993, assuming the last official permits
were issued after January 26, 1992. The standard of ADA compliance is highest
for new construction and is not limited by "disproportionate cost"
or "readily achievable" regulations.
Applicable law sections are 4.30.1 through 4.30.8.
Signs which designate permanent rooms and spaces. Regulations require that
ADA signage have raised lettering, braille and pictograms as well as being
mounted in a specific location. Recommended sign types:
and Informational Signs
Signs which provide direction to, or information about functional spaces
of a building. Regulations require signs to comply with character proportion,
height, finish and contrast rules. Lowercase is acceptable and braille is
not required. _____________________________________________________________
Signs which are "Projected or suspended overhead" must meet ADA
requirements for clearance, character proportion, finish and contrast. _____________________________________________________________
"Building directories, menu boards and all other signs which provide
temporary information about rooms and spaces, such as the current occupant’s
name, are not required to comply" with the ADA guidelines.
ADA SIGN REQUIREMENTS
Minimum requirements: _____________________________________________________________
Accompanied by Grade 2 braille _____________________________________________________________
Upper case & sans serif
Width-to-height ratio between 3:5 and 1:1
Stroke width-to-height ratio between 1:5 and 1:10 _____________________________________________________________
Tactile ADA characters at least 5/8" high, but no higher than 2"
Minimum 3" high
Sized to viewing distance _____________________________________________________________
Text equivalent directly below
Text outside of background area
Background area 6" high _____________________________________________________________
Finish/Contrast of Characters/Background:
Eggshell, or matte non-glare finish 70% contrast between backgrounds _____________________________________________________________
On wall next to latch side of door
Avoids swinging doors
Avoids protruding objects
60" from floor to sign centerline
Minimum 80" clearance from floor