Accessible Signage: An Accessible Business Starts with the Right Signs

Having an accessible business that welcomes disabled customers provides significant benefits and opportunities. With over 61 million adults in the United States identifying as having some form of disability, this market represents more than $1 trillion in discretionary spending ( By making your business accessible through proper signage and other accommodations, you tap into this sizable customer base and their families and friends.

An accessible business demonstrates a commitment to inclusion and expanding your market reach. It shows customers with disabilities that you value them and want to meet their needs. Simple changes like wheelchair-accessible entrances, braille menus, and clear signage make disabled customers feel welcome and comfortable frequenting your business. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction, loyalty, and word-of-mouth for your brand.

Beyond benefiting your customer service, having proper accessibility signage and features ensures you comply with legal requirements like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This protects you from potential litigation and penalties for non-compliance. Overall, accessibility reflects well on a business, highlighting its commitment to equality and serving all customers.

Legal Requirements

There are several legal requirements that businesses must comply with when it comes to accessible signs and signage. The main federal law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design provide detailed technical specifications for various types of signs to ensure they are accessible.

Some key legal requirements from the ADA include:

  • Providing accessible parking spaces, marked with signs showing the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA). The number of accessible spaces depends on the total number of spots.
  • Having accessible entrances marked with the ISA on signs.
  • Providing signs for accessible restrooms and elevators with raised characters and braille.
  • Meeting requirements for tactile signs, like a certain size range, height, and finish.

In addition to federal law, many states and localities have their own disability discrimination laws with regulations on accessible signage. Businesses should check to ensure they comply with all relevant accessibility laws and codes.

Parking Signs

Accessible parking spaces require signs with the International Symbol of Accessibility. According to the ADA, these signs must be mounted at least 60 inches above the ground (measured to the bottom of the sign) so they are visible when a vehicle is parked in the space. The signs should also include relevant details like the required van accessible signage if it is a van-accessible space.

The ADA Standards require parking spaces and access aisles to be marked so as to define the width and outline of the parking spaces and access aisles. Access aisles should be marked so as to discourage parking in them. The marking method, color of the markings, and locations designated for markings are not specified by the Standards. However, research shows that blue and white striping is the most visible.

Some key requirements for accessible parking signs according to the ADA include:

  • Having signs with the International Symbol of Accessibility at each accessible parking space
  • Mounting signs at least 60 inches above the ground
  • Including relevant details like van-accessible signage
  • Using high contrast colors and designs
  • Indicating any penalties for unauthorized use

Proper signage is crucial so disabled customers can clearly identify and safely use accessible parking. Carefully following ADA guidelines for parking signs ensures your business is accommodating for all customers.

Entrance Signs

Entrance signs play a key role in indicating accessible routes into a building. The ADA requires entrances that are accessible to be identified with the International Symbol of Accessibility, which is the universally recognized symbol of a person in a wheelchair. This sign should be included on accessible entrances to indicate to disabled customers that they can enter the building through that doorway.

Directional signage may also be needed at inaccessible entrances to direct disabled customers to the nearest accessible entrance. These directional signs must include the International Symbol of Accessibility and provide directional arrows pointing toward the accessible entrance.

The ADA provides specifications for the size and mounting height of accessibility signage at entrances. The International Symbol of Accessibility must be at least 6 inches high and be mounted between 48-60 inches from the ground. Compliance with these visibility and mounting standards ensures disabled customers can easily identify and understand the accessible building access points.

Interior Signs

Interior signs play a critical role in helping disabled customers navigate through your business and find important amenities. As per the ADA’s 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, interior signage must have certain features like raised characters, Braille, and high color contrast.

Some key types of interior signs for accessibility include:

  • Wayfinding and directional signs – These signs direct disabled customers along accessible routes to key parts of your business, such as entrances, checkout counters, and elevators. They should be posted at decision points like hallway intersections.
  • Elevator signs – Signage near elevators should indicate the elevator number and floor numbers in both visual and Braille formats.
  • Restroom signs – Restroom signs should incorporate the International Symbol of Accessibility and clearly indicate accessible stalls.
  • Amenity signs – If amenities like drinking fountains, telephones, or baby changing stations are available, provide clear signage directing to those locations.

Interior sign placement is also important. Mount signs at a convenient height for both wheelchair users and standing persons. Wayfinding signs should be positioned to allow approach and provide adequate notice before a decision point is reached. Be sure to maintain clear floor space by doors, entrances, and signage.

With well-designed and properly located interior signage, you make it easier for disabled customers to comfortably navigate your business independently.

Restroom Signs

Restroom signs should clearly indicate which restrooms are accessible and highlight accessible features like larger stalls and grab bars. According to the ADA’s Accessible Design for the 2010 Standards, an International Symbol of Accessibility must be displayed at accessible restrooms. At least one toilet stall must have a 60 inch turning radius for wheelchair access.

Accessible restroom signage should include the International Symbol of Accessibility and text like “Restroom Accessible” or “Wheelchair Accessible.” Consider pairing text signs with Braille and raised text for the visually impaired. Signs should be mounted on the wall next to the latch side of the restroom door, complying with ADA height and projecting sign requirements.

Inside accessible restroom stalls, signs must also indicate accessible fixtures like toilets, sinks, towel dispensers, and mirrors. Grab bars, elevators, and other accessible features should be clearly marked so disabled visitors can easily locate them.

For detailed restroom accessibility signage requirements and guidelines, refer to the ADA’s Accessible Design Standards. Compliant signage makes restrooms more usable for disabled visitors.

Accessibility Assistance Signs

Signs and offers of help can go a long way in making disabled customers feel welcome in your business. Accessibility assistance signs communicate that you are willing and able to provide accommodations or help to patrons with disabilities. These signs assure customers that your staff is on hand to assist if needed.

Some examples of accessibility assistance signs include:

  • “Please ask for assistance” signs, indicating that staff can provide help when requested
  • “Service animals welcome” signs to welcome patrons with service dogs
  • “Assistive listening devices available” signs for the hearing impaired
  • “Accessible checkout lane” signs to designate accessible points of sale
  • “Wheelchair assistance available” signs by doors or ramps

Place these signs prominently by entrances, customer service desks, checkout lanes, seating areas, or anywhere accommodations can be offered. Pair them with signs that point the way to accessible entrances, restrooms, and other amenities.

Braille and Tactile Signs

Braille signage is required for certain permanent spaces in public facilities per the ADA Standards. As the Access Board states, raised characters and braille must be located at least 48 inches above the ground, measured from the baseline of the lowest line of braille. This rule applies to signs identifying permanent rooms and spaces, such as restrooms, exits, and room numbers.

Tactile signs contain raised characters and/or Braille for people who are blind or visually impaired. They allow for wayfinding by touch. Common tactile signs include restroom signage with pictograms, elevator control buttons with raised characters, and room number signs with Braille. Graphic symbols and pictograms must meet certain ADA standards for finish and contrast. The background color should contrast with the raised tactile characters to allow for easy recognition.

While Braille is only required for certain permanent spaces, it’s recommended for directional and informational signage as well to improve accessibility. However, there are some exceptions. For example, temporary spaces like conference rooms may not require Braille.

When implementing Braille and tactile signs, pay close attention to mounting height, location consistency, use of symbols, and finish/contrast for compliance.

Sign Placement

Proper sign placement is crucial for accessibility. ADA guidelines specify requirements for mounting height, visibility, and location of signs to optimize access for disabled individuals.

The baseline of the lowest braille cells must be at least 48 inches above the floor, but no higher than 60 inches for tactile signs according to the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (SAD) §703.4.1. This ensures signs can be reached and read by both standing adults and wheelchair users.

Signs should be placed where they are easily visible when approaching an accessible entrance or facility. Wayfinding and directional signs indicating accessible routes and features need to be placed at key decision points. For doors, signs should be located on the wall adjacent to the latch side of the door.

Overhead mounted signs must provide 80 inches of clear headspace above the floor. Wall mounted signs cannot protrude more than 4 inches from the wall to avoid being protruding objects. There must also be at least 27 inches clearance between the bottom edge and the floor.

Following ADA guidelines for mounting height, visibility, and placement ensures your signage can be easily seen, reached, and read by disabled individuals for proper wayfinding and access.

Design and Maintenance

Proper design and maintenance of your accessible signs is crucial for visibility and legibility. Signs should use high contrast colors, generally white or yellow text against a black or dark blue background. Avoid low contrast color combinations like red and green. Text should be large, simple fonts, all caps, with no italics or stylized fonts.

The background color should extend beyond the characters by at least 3/8 inches. Character height should be a minimum of 5/8 inches for uppercase letters and 3/4 inches for lowercase. Braille dots must also meet size and spacing standards for readability. Symbols and pictograms should be recognizable, simple, and with bold outlines.

Signs will fade over time and collect dirt and dust. Check regularly that your signs are clean and visible. Replace any that are damaged, peeling, or difficult to read. As codes and best practices evolve, update signs to reflect new regulations. Keep braille signs properly maintained and replace separated or missing dots. Proper maintenance ensures signs continue to effectively guide and inform disabled visitors.

By designing signs with visibility in mind and keeping them properly maintained, businesses ensure disabled customers can navigate, access amenities, and feel comfortable visiting their premises.

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