Do You Need Pictograms on Your ADA Signs?

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.

But first, 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:

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).

PictogramNameDescription
International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA)Anything that is wheelchair accessible, including restrooms, entrances, exit routes, stations, etc.
International Symbol of TTYA public teletypewriter, allows the hearing impaired to type messages instead of talking
Volume Control TelephoneAn amplified telephone, allows hearing impaired to have clearer conversion over the phone
Assistive 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 RestroomShop Now
Boy’s RestroomShop Now
Family RestroomShop Now
Gender Neutral RestroomShop Now
Girl’s RestroomShop Now
Men’s RestroomShop Now
Unisex RestroomShop Now
Women’s RestroomShop 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 shop now wash hands shop now no smoking shop now baby changing area shop now
stairs shop now elevator shop now lactation rooms shop now no cell phones shop now
in case of fire shop now storm shelter shop now telephone shop now drinking fountain shop now
drinking water shop now   

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