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Door signs can be engraved in brass or printed on tough, durable 80-mil aluminum, plastic, vinyl or leather – you’re only limited by your imagination.
   

About ADA-compliant door signs

Doors tell us who can enter a room or building and who can’t – so signs are one of the most heavily legislated areas of commercial architecture. In order to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, businesses need to make a good-faith effort to follow the ADA’s guidelines, and that means signs that can be both felt and read by those with visual impairments. Any sign in a public area that tells users about functional architectural features (like entrance and exits), accessibility, emergency facilities, or about permanent uses of rooms must comply with the ADA, and in general, only temporary signs or ones used for marketing are exempt. Laws vary state by state, but lawsuits and fines routinely run well into six figures.

ADA-compliant door signs must be printed in sans-serif type, or type without extra embellishments – italic type is strictly forbidden. This aids clarity, and helps the many visually impaired people who don’t use Braille but can read by feeling letters (this is called tactile reading). In fact, lettering and pictograms need to be raised by at least 1/32 inch, and should appear in a field of at least six inches by six to make tactile readers’ lives easier.

Readability is a priority, and like the rest of us, many people with disabilities might have trouble reading grey lettering on a blue background, so make sure the lettering stands out starkly against the background. Matte (instead of shiny) signs are the law because glare can make signs difficult for the partially sighted. Signs should be at 60 inches off the floor, and far enough away from the door to ensure that the reader can safely read it even if someone opens the door from the other side.

Braille characters are required for any sign that falls under the ADA’s remit. The Braille characters themselves should be “domed” and not flat to aid legibility, and should be printed in Contracted Braille. (This is a shorthand that turns many pairs of letters – S and T, for instance – into one single Braille character.)
 
ADA Compliant
 
Notice the relatively unadorned typeface, the very distinct Braille characters, and the raised shapes that allow for tactile reading.

In general, when in doubt, assume your sign should be ADA-complaint. As an imperfect rule of thumb, ask yourself what kinds of information you would want if you had a disability and were trying to use a building. The point is to make usable and welcoming facilities, not just avoid costly fines. And of course, just because you aren’t required to put up signage doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea -people who don’t hear well might appreciate a sign warning them of traffic at a t-intersection in a backlot, or a door sign telling them that there’s hazardous machinery just on the inside of a room.
     
 
 
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