Stairwell Sign Requirements: Everything You Need to Know for Accessibility and Safety

Proper stairwell signage is crucial for accessibility and safety in public buildings and spaces. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides guidelines and standards for accessible design, including requirements for stairwell signs. ADA-compliant signs ensure people with disabilities can safely navigate and evacuate buildings. They also help everyone in an emergency situation by providing clear visual cues toward exits and evacuation routes.

Stairwell signs indicate floor levels, exit routes, and stairs that lead to roof access. Tactile lettering, Braille, and high visual contrast make signs legible for those with low vision or blindness. Consistent signage throughout a building enables independent navigation. For facility managers, owners, and architects, understanding ADA stairwell sign regulations is key to creating accessible, safe buildings.

ADA Requirements for Stairwell Signs

The ADA has specific requirements for stairwell signs to ensure they are accessible for people with disabilities. Some key requirements include:

Tactile Characters: Letters and numbers on the sign must be raised at least 1/32 inch from the background and be non-glare. This allows people who are blind or low vision to identify the sign using touch [1].

Lettering Height: Characters must have a minimum height of 5/8 inch for viewing distances under 6 feet, and 2 inches for viewing distances up to 24 feet [2]. This ensures the signs are legible for people with low vision.

Braille Inclusion: All signs identifying permanent rooms and spaces must also include Grade 2 braille. The braille translation must appear directly below the printed text [1].

Mounting Height: Signs must be mounted at a consistent height between 48 inches to 60 inches above the floor. They must be positioned so there are no obstructions within 3 inches from the sign surface [2].

Reflectivity: Characters and background must have a non-glare finish. Either characters must contrast with their background, or the entire sign must be illuminated [1].

Proper stairwell signs that meet ADA requirements maximize accessibility and safety for all individuals.

Required Information

Stairwell signs need to include certain key information to be ADA compliant. According to the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, the following information should be included:

  • Floor number – The sign should clearly indicate the floor number.
  • Stair letter designation – If the stairway has an identifying letter, such as ‘Stair A’, this should be shown.
  • ‘No roof access’ notice – If the stairway does not provide access to the roof, the sign should state this.
  • Direction of egress – Arrows indicating the egress direction should be included.
  • Tactile floor map – A tactile map of the floor plan with raised characters and braille should be provided.

Providing all of this information in both tactile and visual formats ensures that stairwell signs can be interpreted by both sighted and visually impaired individuals. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design provide detailed specifications on character height, spacing, finish and contrast that support legibility.

Sign Types

There are three main types of ADA-compliant stairwell signs that should be used:

  • Stairwell ID Signs: These signs identify the stairwell with tactile letters and braille. They display the floor number, stair letter, and direction of egress. According to the ADA Standards, stairwell ID signs must have a minimum character height of 5/8″ for tactile lettering and accompany braille.
  • Stairway Exit Signs: These signs indicate the stairwell leads to an exit. They must comply with the ADA Standards for raised characters, braille, and pictograms. Exit signs with tactile lettering and braille must be used at each stairway exit.
  • Warning Signs: Signs like “No Roof Access” in raised letters and braille should be used as needed. Warning signs prevent access to dangerous areas and provide critical information for visually impaired individuals.

Having all three types of stairwell signs ensures accessibility, safety, and compliance with ADA regulations.


There are several material options when selecting ADA compliant stairwell signs, each with their own benefits:

Photopolymer is one popular material choice. As described on the StopSignsAndMore website, photopolymer signs are “extremely durable and are embossed with grade 2 braille”. The photopolymer material allows for high quality and long-lasting signs.

Acrylic is another common option. According to ADA Sign Depot, acrylic signs can be manufactured with custom color matching while still meeting ADA standards. Acrylic is a lightweight but still highly durable plastic.

Aluminum signs are also available for stairwell signage needs. ADA Sign Depot sells brushed aluminum signs that have an elegant, professional look while being sturdy and weather-resistant.

Finally, reflective vinyl is an option for increasing visibility of the signs, especially in dim lighting. The reflective properties help the signs stand out.


Proper placement of stairwell signs is crucial for compliance and visibility. According to ADA guidelines, signs must be installed at a mounting height of 60 inches to the centerline of the sign. This ensures that the signs are visible for both standing persons and wheelchair users.

Stairwell signs should be positioned so they are visible when approaching the door leading to the stairs. They should be mounted either to the wall on the latch side of the door or on the nearest adjacent wall if there is insufficient space on the latch side. It is important not to mount signs too far from doors as they can easily be missed.

Signs must also be positioned at each stair landing to clearly identify that floor level. They should be centered on the wall above the stair landing, or as close as possible while avoiding any obstructions. It is important that signs are not blocked by rails, pipes, decor, or other fixtures.

Following ADA guidelines for proper placement will ensure stairwell signs are compliant, visible, and effectively guide building users in the right direction.

Ensuring Compliance

To make sure your stairwell signs meet all ADA requirements, it’s important to take the following steps:

Use a Reputable Sign Company
Work with a company that specializes in ADA-compliant signage. They will be familiar with the latest standards and best practices. According to the ADA National Network, “Braille signs are considered ‘specialized signs’ under the ADA Standards and must comply with the ADA Standards and state building codes. Due to the level of precision and standards required for Braille signs, it is strongly recommended they be procured through a professional signage company.”

Check State and Local Codes
In addition to federal ADA standards, many states and localities have their own accessibility codes and requirements. Research the specific laws in your jurisdiction. For example, California requires stairwell signage on every floor landing, while the ADA only requires signs on the designated egress level. Following local codes ensures full compliance.

Have Signs Inspected
Before finalizing your stairwell signage, have it reviewed by your local building inspector or by an ADA consultant. They can verify that your signs meet the proper height, mounting, location, and tactile requirements. This will give you peace of mind that your signs are fully compliant.

By using an experienced sign company, adhering to codes, and having signs inspected, you can ensure your stairwell signs meet all ADA standards and keep your building accessible and safe.


The costs of ADA compliant stairwell signs can vary depending on the material, size, and number of signs needed. Here are some factors that impact the overall costs:

Material costs – Photopolymer signs tend to be the most economical option, with basic signs starting around $25. Acrylic or aluminum signs are more durable but cost 2-3 times as much. Reflective vinyl is also pricier.

Labor costs – If hiring a professional sign company to fabricate and install the signs, labor will add to the overall project costs. Simple installation on existing surfaces may start around $25/sign, while more complex installations could be $75+ per sign.

Number of signs – Most stairwells require a sign at each floor entrance/exit, plus additional signs like directional arrows or warnings. A 3-story building may need upwards of 15+ stairwell signs when done correctly.

By using lower cost materials like photopolymer and handling simple installations yourself, small projects can be a few hundred dollars. Larger buildings with many stairwells and professional installation will be in the thousands.

Be sure to get an itemized quote from sign companies, and ask about any bulk discounts for ordering multiple signs. Also price out sign materials from various suppliers before selecting.


Proper maintenance is crucial for ensuring ADA-compliant stairwell signs remain readable and accessible over time. Facility managers should regularly inspect signs for any damage and replace signs immediately if they are not legible or missing braille. Torn, faded, or otherwise damaged signs should be replaced with new signs that meet ADA requirements.

Stairwell signs should be kept clean and free of dust, dirt, grease, or other debris that could make them difficult to read. Gentle cleaning with a microfiber cloth and mild cleaner is recommended. Avoid using harsh chemicals, abrasive scrubbing, or high-pressure washing. Stairwell signs with raised characters and braille are more susceptible to damage from rough treatment.

Braille portions of signs may pop off or shrink over time. Check frequently that braille dots are not missing or flattened down. Reworking braille dots with a point punch is one option for restoring damaged braille to a readable state. However, signs with extensive braille damage should be replaced. Stairwell signs typically have a long service life, but periodic replacement every 5-10 years can ensure continued compliance.

For additional guidance on maintaining ADA stairwell signs, consult resources such as the ADA Accessibility Guidelines or contact a qualified signage provider.


In summary, stairwell signage is critically important for accessibility, safety, and legal compliance in public buildings. By understanding the ADA requirements, planning proper signage placement, and investing in high-quality signs, you can successfully meet your legal obligations and create a more inviting, navigable environment.

Be proactive about updating or installing stairwell signs if your building is lacking proper signage. Work with a reputable sign company to conduct a facility audit and implement a comprehensive stairwell signage solution. Though an investment, proper stairwell signs will demonstrate your commitment to accessibility and inclusiveness.

Don’t leave stairwell signage as an afterthought – make it a priority for your next building project or renovation. Compliant, visible stairwell signs ensure people can navigate your building safely and independently. Contact a sign company today to review your options and get a quote for outfitting your facility with ADA-compliant stairwell signs.

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