Inclusive Design for Your Building

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Try to imagine navigating your way through your workspace, whether it be an office tower, a retail store, or a museum with limited vision. Do you think you would know with confidence where stairs begin, where the exits are, which room is which, or what elevator button goes to what floor?

It’s not going to be easy, and navigating with a disability including visual impairment is a reality for 1 in 4 adults in the United States. Everybody should be able to safely and confidently visit your business, so what can be done to make your building more inclusive and accessible to all?

What is ADA Signage?

To ensure that buildings can be accessed and used by as many people as possible, regardless of disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created over 30 years ago. It is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities”. Impaired vision, hearing, and limited mobility are all examples of disabilities that can limit one’s life. 

Mandating ADA compliant signs is one of the primary ways that the act works to make built environments more inclusive. Not only is it the law to have appropriate signage, but making your spaces accessible means you will meet one of the basic tenets of inclusive design: that space accessible to all makes for a better experience for everyone, not only those living with disabilities. Your business will be more inclusive and more pleasant for all of your customers, and no one will feel unwelcome or unable to visit your building.

Many people associate ADA compliant signs with braille. And though braille is an important and distinguishing characteristic of accessible signage, there are other design considerations, including non-glare finishes, high contrast, and appropriate font and character specifications. There are many other regulations in place that dictate where ADA signage is required, and which buildings and businesses are required to have it.

Color Reflections can help you identify where you need ADA compliant signage. We will design and manufacture signs that meet both your business’s specific needs and federal ADA regulations. Read on to learn more about when and where you are required to have ADA compliant signs in your facility, along with everything you need to know about making your building inclusive to all.

Who Needs ADA Signage?

It would be faster to answer who doesn’t need ADA signage in their building. ADA signs are a legal requirement in all buildings with facilities that host employees, clients, or customers. This includes all:

  • State, county, and local government facilities
  • Public accommodations and commercial facilities, including:
    • Assembly areas 
    • Commercial areas in private residences 
    • Factories 
    • Manufacturing plants
    • Office buildings
    • Other facilities whose operations affect commerce  
    • Places of education
    • Places of lodging 
    • Private museums 
    • Public areas of apartment and condo buildings
    • Recreation facilities 
    • Restaurants and bars 
    • Stores and shops
    • Sales or retail establishments 
    • Service establishments 
    • Theaters 
    • Warehouses 
    • Government - federal and maybe local
    • Apartment buildings
    • Sports stadiums

Where are ADA Signs Required?

As a rule, ADA signs are usually required at every doorway. ADA regulations state that every permanent room or space in U.S. public buildings be marked with an identifying sign. If a sign identifies, directs to, or informs about functional spaces or accessible features, it must be ADA compliant. Temporary signs, menus, logos, names, and marketing materials are not required to comply.

Knowing that there are specific rooms and building features that are subject to ADA signage requirements, your building will need compliant signage for:

  • Entrances and exits
  • Restrooms
  • Vending areas
  • Room entrances
  • Floor numbers
  • Utility Rooms
  • Kitchens
  • Conference Rooms
  • Other permanent rooms (where the purpose of the room doesn’t change)

Although not legally required, you can further optimize the accessibility of your building by adding ADA compliant signs for:

  • Temporary spaces/rooms
  • Directories
  • Direction signage
  • Informational signage for temporary outside space like, for example, a hybrid event.

Types of ADA Signs

ADA signs are most commonly used at doorways and as tactile interior and exterior entrance/exit signs, but their utility does not end there. Inclusive buildings can get custom ADA signs made for:

  • Office directories
  • Room numbers
  • Directional signage
  • Accessible restrooms
  • Pictograms
  • Award plates
  • Nameplates
  • Barcodes
  • Key tags
  • Sign systems/holders/modular frame systems

ADA Compliant Graphics for your Building

When sourcing ADA compliant signs for your building, remember to consider both the legal considerations along with the aesthetics of your signage. Ensure that your ADA signs meet federal regulations that provide those with disabilities with better access to public spaces. Watch out for these common ADA sign violations in your building:

  • Missing Signs: Permanent spaces with a doorway always require ADA compliant tactical signage.
  • Low Contrast: Be sure to provide high contrast background colors and any pictograms, text, or braille.
  • No Braille: Braille is not optional where ADA requires tactical signage, like permanent rooms. It should always be found under the corresponding text.
  • Incorrect Font or Letter Size: The font must be in sans serif, and letter height must be between 5/8 inch and 2 inches.
  • Incorrect Spacing: All sign components should be separated by a 3/8 inch space.

At Color Reflections, we are experts in custom-made, beautiful, and functional signage that also fully complies with ADA signage requirements. Work with us to make your building more accessible and inclusive!

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