Do Your Signs Meet the New ADA rules?

Do Your Signs Meet the New ADA rules?

Do Your Signs Meet the New ADA rules?

This article originally appeared as a sidebar in the article “Making Your Wayfinding More Visitor Friendly” in MCD – Medical Construction and Design magazine in March 2013


One of the biggest changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibilities Guidelines (ADAAG) 2010 is the adoption of Braille standards for signs.

California has its own standard (California Title 24 Braille) which differs from the ADAAG guidelines in that it mandates wider dot spacing; both standards are compliant for the new rules. California also requires Braille on some signs (such as exit, egress, etc) which are not part of the ADAAG mandate.

Do you have to meet the new rules? Any building with a permit issued or alteration which began on or after March 15, 2012 must comply with the new standard.[i] Additionally, some states, counties, and municipalities have their own  signage rules. View this article as a guideline; consult with your local and state building authorities for additional compliance requirements.

Braille Rules:

Braille must be Grade 2 compliant. Grade 2 Braille is the most commonly used form of Braille and has about 300 contractions and combined words making it faster and simpler to read. For 2010 ADAAG compliant signs, Braille characters must meet the following standards:

  • Dot base diameter (0.059-0.063in/1.5-1.6mm)
  • Dot distance (0.090-0.1in./2.3-2.5mm on center)
  • Dot height (0.025-0.037in/.6-.8mm)
  • Cell spacing distance (0.395-0.40in/10-10.1mm)

Find someone in your organization who can read Braille.  Invite them to assist you through the entire process.  Their help is especially valuable in the final installation and punch list phases.  It’s not uncommon for sign vendor to make mistakes in the Braille.  Braille fluency will be invaluable.

Basic rules of signage for ADA compliance:i

Permanent Room Identification Signs

Identify room number, exit signs, elevators, conference rooms, and restrooms:  I

  • If both visual and tactile signs are required, either one sign (visual and tactile) or two signs (one visual, one tactile) can be used.
  • Raised typeface characters must be 1/32 inch (0.8mm) minimum above their background, have no sharp or abrasive edges.
  • Typeface characters must be san serif typeface in uppercase without any italics or decorative forms. Helvetica Medium and Futura Regular are commonly used compliant typefaces.
  • Typeface characters must be  at least 5/8 inch (16mm) and no more than 2 inches (51mm) high using an uppercase letter “I” as the standard for measure.
  • Typeface characters and background must have a non-glare background.
  • Typeface characters must contrast (dark letters on light background or light letters on dark background) for readability.
  • Signs should be located to the right of the door latch, no less than 48 inches (1220mm) and no more than 60 inches (1525mm) from the floor.
  • Signs should have 18 inches (455mm) of unobstructed floor space clearance around the sign.

Door Signs:

While door signs follow many of the same rules as room signs, there are some differences:

  • Characters may be upper or lowercase or both
  • When signs are 40 inches– 70 inches (1015-1780mm) from floor, characters must be at least 5/8 inches (16mm) high
  • When signs are 70 inches – 120 inches (1780-3050mm) from floor, characters must be at least 2 inches (51mm) high
  • When signs are great than 120 inches (3050mm), characters must be at least 3 inches (75mm) high


Pictograms are the visual image such as a man to indicate a men’s room or a wheelchair used on a sign to indicate accessible parking spaces.

  • Pictograms must be at least 6 inches (150mm) high
  • No characters or Braille can be included within the pictogram
  • Pictograms must have text descriptors directly below which must comply with general signage rules for height, placement, and Braille
  • Pictograms must conform to specific international symbols including: accessibility, TTY, volume control telephone, and access for hearing loss

[i]  2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, Department of Justice, September 15, 2010


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to content