ADA Signage: What You Need to Know About ADA Sign Requirements

The CDC says that 27% of adults in the US have a disability. That means if you have any disability, it can be tough to get around a store, use the restroom, or stay off the floor.

Even the simple things we take for granted can be hard for people with disabilities. That’s why the Americans with Disability Act  (ADA) was created – to ensure businesses and public places follow the guidelines for ADA signage.

The ADA has been around since 1990 and protects people with disabilities from discrimination in any public place. In March 2011, ADA requirements became federal law, so you must ensure your signs meet the standards.

Suppose you’re serving any of the millions of people with disabilities. In that case, you must ensure your commercial building has accessible signs inside and outside. Otherwise, you could face hefty fines.

Keep reading to discover why businesses need ADA signs and learn about ADA laws.

ADA Signage Guidelines

Have you ever wondered what are ADA signs and guidelines? Signage is all about letting people know what’s around the corner. From your office signs to ADA bathroom wall signs and hazard warnings, you want to ensure people know what’s out there.

You could face serious penalties if you don’t have signs that meet ADA standards. Violations of ADA laws can cost you anywhere from $75,000 to $150,000, depending on the severity of the violation. These fines are per violation.

All ADA signs have different accessible elements and have to be exact. The goal is to ensure your signs are easy to read and understand.

Here are some examples to ensure your business meets the ADA sign requirements.

Raised Characters

Whether it is an interior or exterior sign, the purpose of an ADA sign is to identify a location, identify an individual, or alert an individual to a potential hazard. If the fonts on the sign are not legible, the sign’s purpose is lost.

Keep in mind that ADA signs are for visibility. They are not for decoration or fashion. All raised characters are uppercase and use serif-free fonts that contain no oblique, script, or italic characters.

Here are some of the fonts approved by the ADA for legibility by non-blind individuals:

  • Arial Bold
  • Avenir medium
  • Franklin Gothic
  • Futura medium
  • Helvetica
  • Trebuchet bold

The raised characters must be at least 1/32 inches higher than the background. The character heights must be 5/8 inches to 2 inches.


Braille is also known as a form of sign language, although it’s not a language. Instead, it’s a system of writing and reading that utilizes raised dots to facilitate the reading of signs by individuals with visual impairment.

Beneath the text on ADA signage, the corresponding text must also be in Grade 2 Braille. Braille is an easy-to-read writing system that people with impairments, such as blindness, deaf-blindness, or low vision, use.

It is created by using raised dots that are read using your fingers. The dots should be either round or domed, not flat or square.

The Braille translation should be at least 3/8 inches away from the text and any other objects that have been raised.

To be ADA-compliant, follow these Braille requirements:

  • engraved in Grade 2 Braille
  • minimum 3/8in space around the Braille
  • Dot height of .025-.037in (0.6-0.9mm)
  • Dot diameter of .059-.063 inch (1.5-1.6mm)

Sign installation and mounting should be consistent so people can find the sign.

Overhead Signs

If you’re using an overhead or projected mounted sign, you don’t need to worry about braille dots or raised characters with these types of ADA sign placement. However, you do need to ensure the characters on the sign are designed to fit within your viewing distance.

You must ensure the characters are at least 2 inches high on overhead signs. Upper and lower-case signs are allowed on these types of signs.

ADA Signage Contrast 

Characters and their backgrounds must be distinct from the surface they are attached to. They should also have a matte finish.

You won’t want the ADA signage to blend in with the background. Use either light characters against a dark backdrop or dark characters against a light background.

ADA Signage Pictograms

It’s a good idea to have pictograms on signs that tell you where a permanent room or space is. They’re usually seen in bathrooms. Even though you don’t have to use them, they can be helpful for people who don’t know English, are blind or partially sighted.

For example, you might see pictograms using the following:

  • International Symbol of Accessibility
  • International Symbol of TTY directional sign
  • No cell phone use
  • Biohazard symbol.

Pictograms must be positioned in a 6-inch wide field free of raised characters and braille dots. Text and braille dots should be positioned directly beneath the pictogram field when used together.

Just as characters on a sign are non-glare, pictograms should be non-glare and contrast with the background.

ADA Sign Placement

To be ADA compliant, you must follow the rules for ADA sign placement. You’ll need to hang your sign outside a permanent indoor space or space occupied for at least seven days.

Here are a few examples of where signs can be placed:

  • Breakrooms
  • Elevators
  • Exam rooms
  • Kitchens
  • Offices
  • Restroom

If your sign has raised characters, mount them on the latch side of the door.

There are specific elements to consider when installing ADA signage. ADA sign placement guidelines must be followed. They come with exact placement, widths, and heights.

Non-compliance with these guidelines will lead to violations. Always consider whether any room that someone enters within your business needs ADA signs.

Was This ADA Signage Guide Useful?

Following ADA signage standards is a vital element to accessibility for everyone. Facilities that don’t meet ADA standards greatly impact millions of people every day. They make it harder for people with disabilities to move around and have safe access. 

We know it’s a lot of information to digest. That’s why the experts at Martin ADA Signs are here to help you with ADA sign requirements. 

Reach out today for a FREE job quote

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