ADA FAQ’s

Isn’t the government constantly changing the ADA rules?

ADA sign guidelines have not changed once since 1991 when they were first written. However, various states may have published their state building codes in the meantime, and there might be some more stringent rules in your specific state. Also, ANSI (American National Standards Institute) did come out with new standards, including a completely rewritten sign section in 1998. The federal government, which is in charge of the ADA, has no control over this activity. The Federal Government is in the process of revising the ADA Guidelines.

What is the new 2010 ADA Standard?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) amended the American with Disabilities Act on September 15, 2010. The revisions clarify and refine issues that have arisen since its implementation over twenty years ago. These changes are referred to as the “2010 Standards”. On March 15, 2012, the 2010 Standard for Accessible Design or simply SAD was enforced for new construction and alterations. Please note, formal compliance is administered at the state and local levels, therefore, revisions may have already been adopted. Some states and municipalities are permitted to adopt accessibility codes even more stringent than the 2010 Standards with the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Will photopolymer signs still be compliant after the new ADA rules are passed?

The new 2010 Standards for Accessible Design do not rule out any fabrication methods. The codes only indicate that Braille dots be rounded or domed, therefore, Photopolymer continues to meet all compliance guidelines.

ADA signs are supposed to be “non-glare.” Can we use metals for ADA signs?

When a substrate that has a shiny finish such as aluminum is used, a non-glare satin clear coat can be applied to the surface of the material.

How do we determine contrast on signs? What colors work best?

Contrast is between light and dark, not between colors. For instance, a very pale grey (almost white) would be fine with a charcoal background. Brown and green or red and black do not contrast for people with defective color vision. Although contrast is not defined in the guidelines with a specific number, the minimum 70% rule is good to follow.

Current ADA guidelines call for “simple” serifs. What is a simple serif?

There is no such term. The original writers of the ADA guidelines incorrectly used this definition of typeface. The new Rules eliminate this confusing term. Serifs on tactile characters make them more difficult to read by touch.

What sign types need to follow ADA guidelines?

All permanent rooms and spaces are required to have an ADA compliant sign providing identification. Life safety signs identifying doors at exit passageways, discharge, and stairwells are required to be ADA compliant and include raised characters and Braille copy. Overhead, flag-mounted, and wall-mounted signs that direct or identify need to follow ADA guidelines but do not require tactile copy.

Do temporary signs need to be ADA compliant?

No. The new ADA defines permanent signage as an identification sign representing destinations for more than seven days. Temporary signs (signs used less than seven days) do not need to be ADA compliant.

 What type of Braille is used for ADA compliant signage?

There are two types of Braille. Grade 1 Braille is full spelling. Grade 2 Braille consists of Grade 1 Braille and 189 contractions. Grade 2 Braille is ADA compliant. 2/90 uses the new standard when creating Braille. New guidelines require Braille dots to be rounded or domed. Braille dots need to be positioned 3/8 of an inch directly below the corresponding text and be the same color as the background.

What are the guidelines for Visual Characters?

When raised characters and Braille copy are not mandated but signs provide direction or life safety, guidelines for Visual Characters are required. Visual characters and their background need to follow these guidelines: non-glare finish, contrast with their background, uppercase or lowercase or a combination of both, copy style to be conventional in form, and characters cannot be expanded, extended, italic, oblique, script, highly decorative, or of other unusual forms.

What size does my copy need to be for ADA compliance?

The new codes allow for letter heights to better fit their environment. The minimum character height is 5/8 inch and 2 inches maximum for raised characters. For visual characters, a range of 5/8 inch to 2 inches is used for wall-mounted signs. Overhead signage has a 2-inch minimum character height along with height requirements above 3 inches for longer distances.

Are there any ADA changes for symbol signage?

Yes. Pictograms need a vertical field of 6 inches. Raised characters and Braille cannot be located in this field. The equivalent verbal description needs to be placed directly below the pictogram field.

At what height do ADA signs need to be installed?

Previously, ADA signs were mounted at 60 inches to the center of the sign. 2010 Standards provide for a range of 48 to 60 inches from the bottom to the top of sign text. This change provides for the visual consistency of sign heights.

What are the minimum height clearances for ADA signage?

The bottom of overhead signage must clear 80 inches minimum above the finished floor (AFF). Wall-mounted signs must be mounted a minimum of 27 inches AFF and a maximum height of 80 inches, with a maximum protrusion into the pathway of 4 inches.

Where do ADA signs need to be installed in relationship to a door?

When mounting ADA-compliant signage, sign location is relative to door type and swing path. The new ADA provides greater guidance for the placement of signs, allowing tactile signs to be placed on the push side of doors with a closing mechanism. This change clarifies the issue of signs on restroom doors.

  • Single Door: Sign shall be next to the door on the latch side.
  • Double Doors (one active leaf): Sign shall be located on the inactive leaf.
  • Double Doors (two active leaves): Sign shall be to the right of a right-handed door.
  • Push Doors: Sign shall be on the push side of doors with closers and without hold-open devices.
  • Signs for doors without wall space (on the latch side of a single door or at the right side of double doors) shall be mounted on the nearest adjacent wall.
  • Mounting location for such signage shall be so that a person may approach within 3 inches of signage without encountering protruding objects or standing within the swing of a door.

Is ADA stairwell signage necessary?

Yes. A tactile sign is required next to each door inside a stairwell identifying floor level and stairwell. Many local fire codes require a visual-compliant minimum sign size of 18 inches high by 12 inches wide for each floor in all stairwells identifying floor level, stair level, roof access, and level of exit. These signs can be separate but 2/90 recommends tactile copy on the visual compliant sign for cost and maintenance savings. Depending on building type and state code, these signs may be required to be photoluminescent. Since local ordinances override federal, please verify with your municipality.

Where can I find more factual information about the ADA and regulations?

More information can be found at the U.S. Department of Justice Americans with Disabilities Act ADA Home Page

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