In 1992, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), to avoid discrimination in the workplace for persons with disabilities, has set out some rules to follow regarding interior office signs. These ADA rules on signage specifically refer to providing signs that are not only verbally spelled out but also with pictorial, symbolic, and also tactile information. For proper compliance, it is important to know about the details and scope of these rules. Following these rules, the signs will be able to communicate important information even to people with impaired vision. You might ask, what are these signs anyway?
To give you an idea of what they are, here is a list:
- Office signs
- Company logos
- Room numbers
- Restroom signs
- No smoking signs
- Telephone signs
Not all of these signs need to be ADA compliant. There are practical exceptions to this rule. So, which of these need to follow ADA rules, and which ones do not?
Here are the ones that need to comply with ADA standards:
- Directional signs such as those indicating restrooms and exits
- Signs that designate permanent rooms such as conference rooms and room numbers
- Informational signs about a building’s functional spaces such as the reception area
More signs are to be found inside commercial buildings than the ones mentioned above. The rest of them need not be as strict with compliance. Some signs that are not really required to comply with ADA standards include:
- Restaurant menus which could change according to the management’s discretion
- Building directories which are semi-permanent, and therefore depends on office tenancy
- Other temporary signs like those for promotional purposes and those used as window displays
Some of the rules for interior office signage that would allow Americans with disabilities accessibility, or to enable such individuals to read them easily, deal with issues of readability such as the sizes of fonts and even the kinds of fonts that are used. The use of non-reflective and non-glare materials, and the use of easy-to-read contrast between the letters and their background is also a consideration here. Also of importance is where the signs will be placed, for instance: an indoor office sign which identifies a room should be placed near the entrance to that room, particularly on the door latch side, so that even a person who is functionally blind will be able to find it.
There are a few signage businesses that are very knowledgeable when it comes to ADA rules and regulations. Whether you are a customer looking to order ADA compliant signs, or someone needing signage for your business and do not know whether these should be compliant or not, here are some of the signage details you might need to look into:
- Typeface- the fonts should be simple non-decorative sans serif typefaces. These make the letters clearly visible and easy to read and decipher, even for people with reading disabilities.
- Tactile letters- the letters used in these signs should be raised to a height of 5/8 to 2 inches, to be easily felt and traced by the fingertips, for tactile readers.
- Braille elements- Grade 2 Braille must be used in conjunction with regular signage, or have a separate one to make it easier to place in an area which is accessible to the visually impaired.
- Design- the background of sign plates should have a specific percentage for contrast between the letters and the background, which is set at 70%, again for increased readability. This rule on light and dark contrasts for text vs. background would be especially helpful for the elderly with their failing eyesight.
The rules that the Americans with Disabilities Act has come up with in the early 1990s about interior office signs all make sense, and from the point of view of a vision impaired person trying to achieve some normalcy in the world, it is a very welcome set of rules.