If a person is asked about pictograms used for ADA signs, the most common answer would be the International Symbol of Accessibility, and the men’s and women’s restroom symbols. There are a few other symbols and images that can actually be used for ADA compliant signs. These include images for no-smoking, stairways and the other accessibility signs.

When you use pictograms on these signs, you have to follow certain standards and regulations to help keep your signs compliant. First off, while there are no specific rules as to how large a pictogram should be, pictograms on any ADA required sign should be on a background that is no less than 6” high. Each pictogram should always have an equivalent descriptive text directly underneath it. No other element or graphic should be found within the sign’s pictogram field.

The descriptive text that is to be found underneath your pictogram should also follow ADA sign rules for letter size, font and spacing. These characters should be tactile, be in colors that are in contrast with the background and must have the right stroke thickness. These letters should also be accompanied by a Braille translation directly beneath it. The distance between the last line of descriptive text and the Braille translation should be between .375” to .5”.

Aside from the regular pictograms you normally see on bathroom doors, stairwells and ramp locations, there are a few other special symbols that you might not be that familiar with. Along with the most commonly used International Symbol of Accessibility, there are three more symbols of accessibility that may be needed by certain facilities to become fully compliant. These are the ear symbol, the keyboard symbol and the phone symbol.

While the ISA (International Symbol of Accessibility) is used to give people with mobility problems directions to ramps, entrances and facilities that they can use, these three other symbols are used for those with hearing impairments. The ear symbol is used for showing people that an assistive listening system is available. The keyboard symbol is used to inform people of the availability of a text telephone, or TTY. The phone with sound waves pictogram means that a volume controlled phone is also available in the establishment.