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ADA signage requirements and sources

Recent changes in laws regarding commercial buildings and disabled persons are something you should know about if you own a business or plan on owning one soon. The United States' Government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1992, which set a series of guidelines for businesses to follow in order to make their facilities accessible to people with physical handicaps. Theses laws were a necessary move forward in the representation of the rights of individuals with special needs. Prior to the passing of the ADA, a business could have little or no access for those with disabilities, making it virtually impossible for such individuals to utilize the commercial space. This not only hurts business, because of the loss of customers, but clearly puts those with disabilities at a terrible disadvantage. As a concerned business person you should pay attention to these guidelines. They not only will help you have a more successful business, but also have become United States law. In order to better serve your disabled customers, the government has specifically detailed the ways in which certain parts of the business should be used. One of the most important parts that any of us will recognize is the use of specific signs in specific places.

The rules pertaining to the placement and nature of signs are rules applying to what is commonly called "signage." Signage simply means the type of and placement of signs in a commercial space. If a sign must be placed six feet up and needs to be written in a specific font, then the requirements stipulating this kind of information represent the necessary "signage."

The ADA stipulates very specific signage for commercial buildings. The section of the bill dealing with these issues is very long, so before getting to involved with making changes be sure you consult all of the details. Mentioned below are the critical ones that everyone should know about:

Numbers and or letters on signs need to have a width to height ration of between 3:5 and 1:1, and a stroke width ration between 1:5 and 1:10.

The size of the letters, numbers or other characters on a sign is determined based on the distance from which the sign is to be seen. Lower case characters can be used and the minimum height is measured using an upper case X.

Letters and other characters should be raised 1/32" upper case, sans serif or basic serif and should have Grade 2 Braille next to them. Raised characters must be at least 5/8" (16 mm) high, although not higher than 2" (50mm). Picture signs (pictograms) need to have a
verbal description bellow the sign itself. The border size of the pictogram must be at minimum 6" (152 mm) in height.

Braille dimensions are specified by law. Standard dot diameter is .090", and inter dot spacing .090". Horizontal seperation between cells is .241, and vertical separation .395. The height of raised dot should be .017"-.022".

Characters and backgrounds must be certain colors. They must either be eggshell, matte, or some other non-glare paint. The letters and numbers, along with symbols have to contrast with the background. Signs must have either light letters or characters on a dark background or vise versa.

Signs must be installed on the wall adjacent to the latch side of a door. If there is no space, then the sign needs to be placed on the nearest adjacent wall. Mounting height needs to be 60" from the floor top to the center of the sign. The sign needs to be placed so that people may approach within 3" of the sign without hitting anything (including the door).

More information on ADA guidelines can be found at:

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