The Federal ADA signage guidelines can be difficult to navigate due to its complex and meticulous requirements. Our new series, “How to Achieve ADA Signage Compliance,” aims to empower sign manufacturers with the education they need to ensure ADA compliance for each sign they ship out.
While there are countless layers to designing and fabricating signage, at the end of the day your most important task on this market is to know and understand ADA signage requirements. One of the most common mistakes when fabricating signage is braille placement. The rules and requirements for braille placement as outlined by the ADA are very particular. Mistakes in braille placement can lead to fines of up to $75,000 for each sign that is non-compliant. Here is everything you need to know about ADA braille requirements to reduce the risk of being hit with these expensive fines.
What is Braille?
Braille is a tactile system created for persons with visual impairments. Braille uses a series of raised dots to create patterns and symbols that are equivalent to the alphabet, but not identical in shape or even character count. This communication system allows visually impaired individuals to read and write simply by running their hands through the characters and interpreting them.
Signage is meant to support and guide all persons who come across it. This means that braille is a must to ensure that signage remains functional regardless of the ableness of each individual. Specifically, braille is an important part of signage because it allows those with visual impairments to read and interpret the information portrayed on each sign. Without braille, those with visual impairments cannot find the place they need to go.
According to the ADA, all signage that identifies a room, space, or area – whether it is accessible by the public or just for employees – must have braille on it. The braille on every sign must be compliant with the guidelines and requirements of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design including:
Braille comes in three types of grades: I, II, and III. Each grade has its own method of writing and is not always a direct equivalent to the traditional alphabet. In the United States, all ADA-compliant signs must make use of Grade II braille to accompany written text on tactile signs. Grade II braille is not a letter-for-letter translation of the text. It includes 265 contractions and makes use of single characters to represent entire words or groups of letters.
Now, you may be thinking: “Why is Grade II the preferred form of braille for signage?” The decision to use Grade II braille ultimately comes down to practicality. As mentioned earlier, Grade II braille makes use of contractions and special characters, which considerably improves the reading speed of those with visual impairments. Grade I braille is a literal letter-for-letter substitution of its printed counterpart. This means that if Grade I braille is used on signage, the braille will be excessively long and will take more time for those with visual impairments to interpret it. On the other hand, Grade III is designed for speed and not necessarily printing because it is more of a shorthand way of writing braille. Overall, Grade II braille is a comfortable middle point to the other two grades of braille, which makes it the best option for fabricating signage.
Dimensions and Capitalization
As mentioned earlier, the ADA Standards are very specific when it comes to braille and this is easily seen when it comes to the dimension and texture of the characters. First and foremost you must ensure that all braille dots have a domed or rounded shape so that any individual running their hands over it can do so without discomfort or misinterpretation. These are the specific measurements (in inches) that each braille dot must be to stay ADA-complaint:
- Dot Height: 0.025 – 0.037
- Dot Diameter: 0.059 – 0.063
- Spacing Between Dots: 0.090 – 0.100
- Vertical Cell Spacing: 0.395 – 0.400
- Horizontal Cell spacing: 0.241 – 0.300
Signage manufacturers must remember to check their local legislation regarding braille before committing to a design. Certain states, like California, have requirements that can be much more complex and strict than the ADA standards, which can result in a more complicated manufacturing process. Additionally, all braille characters used in the design must be lowercase. According to the ADA, “the indication of uppercase letters shall only be used before the first word of sentences, proper nouns, and names, individual letters of the alphabet, initials, and acronyms.”
Position and Spacing
The last major factor to consider when it comes to ADA-compliant braille placement is its proper positioning and spacing. In general, braille must always be located below its corresponding text. For multi-line text, braille must be placed below the entire text (not directly below each line). Additionally, according to the ADA, braille must be separated by “at least 3/8 inch from any other tactile character, raised borders, or decorative elements” to not confuse its interpretation. However, there is an exception to this rule, which comes in the form of elevator car controls. In this context, braille must be separated 3/16 inch minimum. It should also be positioned either directly below or next to its corresponding raised characters and symbols.
How to Ensure Your Signs Are Compliant
Although braille may seem like a minor matter in the whole ADA compliance landscape, its misuse can result in adverse outcomes for a business. As we discussed, braille guidelines are incredibly thorough and strict. Installing a sign without the proper braille requirements can result in costly ADA-related lawsuits and fines. Human errors are all too common when dealing with braille placement in signage. To avoid penalties and stay in compliance, fabricators need to invest in high-quality software that has the tools to combat the common mistakes in braille placement. The right software will automate braille placement in each signage you fabricate so you can consistently produce top-quality signs, every time. Not only that but it will enhance your workflow operations for maximum efficiency and productivity.
Braille placement is essential to staying ADA-compliant. Sign manufacturers and fabricators must be aware of all the regulations and requirements associated with braille on signage to stay compliant and achieve more profit in the long run. Addressing these common braille mistakes will lead to success. Despite this, many fabricators decide to sub-contract braille signage production because of its complex landscape. Those who do so are leaving quite a lot of money on the table.
Fabricating braille on signage doesn’t have to be so complicated. Nova Polymers can identify and solve all your braille-related issues. We provide you with innovative solutions that are tailored to your needs so that you can produce signage in confidence. Contact us for more information.