What is the intent of the American with Disabilities Act?
The intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to make sure people with disabilities have access to public places. Approximately 2.5 million Americans are legally blind, and there are millions more who suffer from limited vision due to other causes. So besides Braille and tactile lettering, ADA signs provide bold, high contrast identification of rooms for optimal readability. So, do all rooms require ADA signs?
How is a Sign Deemed as ADA Compliant?
Per the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Designs a sign is ADA compliant when it complies with section 703:
- Both visual and tactile characters are required
- Raised characters will be duplicated in braille
- Certain design aesthetics must be met
- Tactile elements shall be 1/32 inch high
- Sans Serif characters only
- Character Proportions, Height, Spacing, etc.
- Design requirements like color contrast
- There are additional rules about placement and installation
Which Rooms Require ADA Compliant Tactile/Braille Signs?
Rooms which are determined to be permanent areas require ADA compliant tactile/Braille signs. Examples of rooms/spaces that are unlikely to change (especially when they have permanent fixtures) are sprinkler rooms, cafeterias, electrical rooms, and restrooms; they are labeled by room names and not just room numbers. If a room is considered permanent but can change its function easily, they may be labeled alphanumerically with ADA room number signs, or Office Insert Signs. Great examples of these are cubicles, classrooms, and some offices.
What Rooms Do Not Require ADA Compliant Tactile/Braille Signs?
Not all signs need tactile characters and Braille to be ADA compliant. These include:
- Instructional or Informational Signs
- Building addresses
- Parking signs
- Signs which are not included in ADA codes
- Rooms and spaces which have been deemed as temporary (those which are in use for 7 days or less).
How do I Determine if a Room is Temporary?
If you are unsure if a room is considered permanent or temporary, here is a rule to go by: if the walls are fasted to either the ceiling, wall, or both, the room is considered a permanent room… even if there is a movable wall which can be unfastened.
How do I Keep Track of Which Rooms Need an ADA Compliant Sign?
A good solution is to separate rooms which have been determined as:
- Permanent Not Easily Changed (includes fixtures)
- Permanent But Can Easily Change
- Temporary Rooms (even though they might not require braille and tactile characters is is always good to make sure that you are making the space as accessible to everyone as possible!)
Life Safety Signs
Yes, there is more! After making your list of rooms and spaces you will want to add Life Safety Signs. These signs include information on how to exit a building during an emergency or where/how to get to the Areas of Refuge. Signs which fall into the Life Safety Signs category include:
- Exit Signs
- Stairwell Signs
- Elevator Floor Level
- Stairwell Signs with “Exit On This Floor”
- Elevator restriction during emergency “In case of fire use stairs”
Always remember to check for variances with your state and local code to make sure that you are meeting ADA requirements.