Rules and Regulations

Do You Need Pictograms on Your ADA Signs?

Featured Image with a variety of pictograms

It may come as a surprise, but not every ADA sign needs to include a pictogram. There is actually a lot of flexibility when it comes to ADA signs and the design of the pictogram.

What is a pictogram?

Pictogram is a term used in the signage world. A pictogram is an image that can be easily identified as the physical object which it is representing. It can also be called an icon, drawing, or symbol. The goal of a pictogram is to be easily recognized.

There are 3 pictogram categories:

pictogram categories; required, recommended, and optional.

1. Pictograms are required on signs that assist people with disabilities.

Signs that provide direction to accessible permanent rooms and spaces require pictograms. This is most commonly seen for wheelchair accessible restrooms. The International Symbol of Accessibility, International Symbol of TTY, and the Volume Control Telephone and Assistive Listening System symbols are all recognized worldwide as a part of the ISO, (International Organization for Standardization, a national group representing a single design standard).

 International Symbol of Accessibility International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA)Anything that is wheelchair accessible, including restrooms, entrances, exit routes, stations, etc.
International Symbol of TTYInternational Symbol of TTYA public teletypewriter, allows the hearing impaired to type messages instead of talking
Volume Control Telephone IconVolume Control TelephoneAn amplified telephone, allows hearing impaired to have clearer conversion over the phone
Assistive Listening Systems IconAssistive Listening SystemA device that amplifies sound directly into the ear, allows for better hearing

2. Pictograms are recommended on signs that identify permanent rooms and spaces.

Signs which identify a room are advised to include pictograms. They are most commonly seen on restrooms. Though they may not be required, it’s nice to be able to quickly identify a restroom, and it’s important to remember that not everyone reads English.

NameStandard+Wheelchair Accessible 
All Gender RestroomAll GenderIconsAll Gender Handicap IconsShop Now
Boy’s RestroomBoy's IconsBoy's Handicap IconsShop Now
Family RestroomFamily IconsFamily Handicap IconsShop Now
Gender Neutral RestroomGender Neutral IconsGender Neutral Handicap IconsShop Now
Girl’s RestroomGirl IconsGirl Handicap IconsShop Now
Men’s RestroomMen IconMen Handicap IconsShop Now
Unisex RestroomUnisex IconsUnisex Handicap IconsShop Now
Women’s RestroomWomen IconWomen Handicap IconsShop Now

Always remember to check for variances in your state and local code to make sure that you are meeting their requirements. A great example is California, which requires two signs to identify a restroom, check out The Mystery of California Title 24 Restroom Doors Signs.

3. Pictograms are optional on all other signs.

These pictograms do not fall into the ADA standards (pictograms which serve the disabled), but local codes (state, fire, building) may require them. Since these signs are not part of the ADA standards, they do not require text nor the minimum space that the required and recommended pictograms do.

fire extinguisher Pictogram
fire extinguisher
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wash hands Pictogram
wash hands
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no smoking Pictogram
no smoking
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baby changing area Pictogram
baby changing area
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stairs Pictogram
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elevator Pictogram
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lactation rooms Pictogram
lactation rooms
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no cell phones Pictogram
no cell phones
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in case of fire Pictogram
in case of fire
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storm shelter Pictogram
storm shelter
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telephone Pictogram
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drinking fountain Pictogram
drinking fountain
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drinking water Pictogram
drinking water
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It is always an option to include tactile and braille on these signs, as it might be required by your local building code.

Did you know there is a minimum space required for pictograms?

There are minimum spacing rules which apply to required and recommended pictograms. They must be in their own space at least 6″ high, but there is no rule regarding the size of the pictograms.

Minimum Space for Pictograms

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