Maybe you’re a small business owner. Or a commercial property manager. Or maybe you’re the manager of a restaurant and some guest just mentioned that the signs are your restroom are illegal and could cause you to be sued.
What the heck are ADA signs? Why would you, a business, anyone need them? And how do you buy ADA signs that are compliant with the law, and not illegal?
In general, almost every sign that would be considered an “architectural” sign must comply with one or another of the ADA Guidelines. In other words, if a sign identifies a permanent room or space of a facility, including exits, directs or informs about functional spaces of the facility, or identifies, directs to, or informs about accessible features of the facility, it must comply. (Signs for advertising and marketing purposes, temporary signs, company logos and company names are examples of signs or sections of signs that do not have to comply.)
Eight Things to Know About Buying ADA Compliant Signs
Q: What material should an ADA sign be made of?
A: ADA compliant signs can be made of a wide range of materials. At ADA Sign Depot, we make ADA compliant signs out of acrylic resin plastic, brushed aluminum, and even bamboo.
It’s the characteristics of the materials used that you have to know about. If the sign shines, don’t buy it. ADA compliant signs have a matte finish. They do not have a shiny surface. They do not cause glare under natural or artificial light.
matte /mat/ Adjective (of a color, paint, or surface) Dull and flat, without a shine: “matte black”.
Glare is a major challenge and problem not for the blind, but for the partially sighted. And that includes a lot of our aging American population.
Q: How thick should an ADA sign be? What shape?
A: Most ADA compliant signs need to be a minimum of 1/8-inch in thickness. Most ADA signs require an “eased” or “rounded” corner radius.
There are some exceptions. California Title 24 compliant restroom door signs, for example, need to be a robust 1/4-inch thick. These particular signs also need to be a designated shape: Triangle indicates a male restroom or sanitary facility. Circle shaped door sign is for a female only restroom or sanitary room. And for a Unisex Restroom door sign? You guessed it: Triangle and Circle.
Q: What color should an ADA sign be?
With a few notable exceptions that require set colors, such as the International Symbol of Accessibility, signs of many different colors, even full process color, con be fully ADA compliant.
The thing to be aware of? Contrast. Contrast. Contrast. Full ADA compliance requires a 70% contrast. That is, 70% contrast between the sign and what it is mounted on (door, wall, counter, window). As well as a 70% contrast between the base of the sign and its foreground elements: The letters/numbers and/or pictograms (symbols) on the sign.
Now for the kicker. What exactly is a 70% contrast? As opposed, to say, a 60% or 47% contrast? No one really can tell you. Why? There are simply too many variables for each sign in each setting—and no objective or practical way to measure contrast under ever-shifting conditions.
But, like so many things in life, the answer is: Relax, and use your Common Sense. Look for obviously high-contrast colors such as the default white text/symbols on Federal Blue background that is the defacto default color scheme for most ADA signs. Black on white or white on black? Perfecto. Black on brushed aluminum? No problemo. Red text on white? You got it.
Q: What is tactile text? Do all ADA signs have to be tactile?
Tactile means raised above the background surface. You can “feel” tactile letters and symbols. ADA signs require their text and pictograms (symbols) be raised 1/32-inch. Many sight impaired people as well as most blind people do not read Braille. But interacting with, touching tactile letters, aids them in deciphering the legend/message of a sign.
But hey, there are sensible exceptions. Some fully ADA compliant signs have subsurface (non-tactile) messages. Typically, guide signs, informational and directional signs do not require Braille or tactile text.
Q: What kind of Braille is ADA compliant?
Simple answer: Use California compliant Braille and you cannot go wrong. It meets/exceeds Federal standards.
Do you really want a longer explanation of what kind of Braille should be on ADA compliant signs? (Cool!) Vistour sister site, Title24Signs.com: and read this pithy blog post: ADAAG Braille versus California Braille — Grade 1 versus Grade 2 Braille — Does It Matter?