The ADA is basically a law that upholds the civil rights of persons with disability. It prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. The clamor for ADA signs is based on the premise that the lack of accessibility or certain services can be considered consideration and thus, the need for appropriate signage for people with disability.
As a general rule, almost every sign that is posted in an establishment or those considered as an architectural sign must comply with the guidelines set forth in this Act. One example would be a sign identifying a permanent room or space of the facility such as exits, stairwells, room numbers and rest rooms. Another example would be those signs that directs or informs about accessible features of the facility.
So what are the specific guidelines that you need to know about ADA signage? Let us identify some of the rules for you.
The ADA requires owners of establishments to have signs that have non-glare backgrounds and characters. This rule is imposed in consideration of the fact that glare and reflection are major problems for people with vision impairments, particularly for the elderly. There is, however, an exception to this rule: reflective parking and other traffic signs.
Another important rule to remember is this: all signs must have a high dark to light contrast between characters and their respective backgrounds. The ADA Act does not explicitly prohibit you from using a particular color for your background and character; it merely defines the contrast to be used in the signage. Hence, you may opt to use a sign with very light gray letters on a deep black background but, you cannot use red letters on a black background as this will not meet the contrast criteria set forth by the ADA Act.
The fonts of your signs must be easy to read. In other words, you have to use fonts that are readable as opposed to elaborate or decorative fonts. Tactile signs require uppercase characters in sans serif typefaces. An example of a sans serif typeface is Helvitica. Moreover, letters should be at least 5/8-inch or larger that 2 inches. They must have a minimum3/32 inches thick for tactility.
As an establishment owner, all these rules may be overwhelming and you might feel that your creativeness is being curtailed by the imposition of so many rules. But having these rules need not be counterproductive. You can still have stylish and attention-grabbing signs while still meeting the minimum requirements of the ADA Act. Remember, those rules have been imposed to cater to a specific audience and while they are a minority, they are still considered customers.
There are many signage companies that now offer a wide range of signage that are creative and compliant with ADA requirements. These companies have successfully found new way to spice up their customers signage without breaking any ADA-imposed rules. The trick really is to understand how much leeway you have when it comes to deigning your signage. And to do this, a working knowledge of the basic ADA rules is important.