Ensure Your Signs are ADA Compliant

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You’ve seen them in just about every business environment and they are most likely your directional facilities signs to help the customer find restrooms, services, and exits. But are you ADA compliant? If they aren’t, you could be subject to sizeable fines. But just how big of a fine? As of March 2014, the potential fine for a first-time ADA violation increased to a maximum of $75,000!

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that has been in place since 1990. This law protects disabled individuals from discrimination within all spaces accessible to the public. As of March 2011, compliance is now required and enforceable by federal law.

The ADA guidelines have specific parameters for signage products.

Listed below is a brief summary of some of the principal areas that the ADA regulates.

Character Properties + Braille Dots

  • Raised characters must be uppercase, sans serif and free of oblique, script or italic characters.
  • Raised characters shall be raised a minimum of 1/32 inch from their background.
  • Raised characters heights shall be between 5/8 inch and 2 inches.

They must be accompanied by Grade 2 Braille dots and positioned directly below the corresponding text. Braille must be separated a minimum of 3/8 inch from raised text and other raised objects. Braille dots are to be domed or rounded, not flat or squared.

Overhead and projection mounted signs do not require raised characters or Braille dots, but the characters should be designed to meet their required viewing distance.

  • Overhead signs should have a minimum of 2-inch character height.
  • Upper and lower case characters are permissible on overhead and projected mounted signs.

Finish + Contrast

  • Characters and their background must have a non-glare finish.
  • Characters must contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background.

Pictograms + Placement

  • Pictograms must be placed in a 6-inch high “field” area, which should be free of raised characters or Braille dots.
  • When text and braille dots are used with a pictogram, they should be placed directly below the pictogram field.
  • Like the characters on a sign, pictograms should have a non-glare finish and contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background.

Mounting Heights + Positioning

  • Signs with raised characters should be mounted on the latch side of the door.
  • The distance between the finished floor and the baseline of the raised characters must be between 60 inches (from the highest tactile character) and 48 inches (from the lowest tactile character).
  • The sign should be located so that a clear floor space (18 x 18-inch minimum, centered on the tactile characters) is provided beyond the arc of the door. See diagram below.
  • Overhead signs must have a minimum clearance of 80 inches from the bottom of the sign to the finished floor.
  • If a projection mounted sign extends more than 4 inches from the wall, it must also have an 80-inch clearance from the bottom of the sign to the finished floor.

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