Braille Signage

One of the features that some ADA signs are required to have is a Braille translation of the wording or pictogram of the sign. Also called Braille signage, these signs have translations in Braille to benefit those who have visual impairments. These translations are found, as per regulations, directly under the tactile letters or the pictogram of these ADA compliant signs.

The signs that are required to have these translations are those that are used on what are called “permanent rooms or spaces”. These are essentially rooms or spaces that will not be seeing any change in its usage anytime soon or have equipment in them that cannot be moved, hence they are to stay that way for as long as these are in use. Some examples of permanent rooms or spaces include kitchens, restrooms and conference rooms.

When it comes to the Braille translations on these signs, you will notice that the version of Braille to be used is grade 2 and not grade 1. What is the difference between these two? Grade 1 Braille features representations of letters, with each cell representing one character, number or punctuation mark. Grade 2 Braille, on the other hand, can actually represent an entire word in one cell.

Grade 2 Braille is called a space-saving alternative to Grade 1 Braille and is used for ADA signs due to its ability to create longer words or phrases with the use of these contracted dots. What contracted dots do is they make longer words short with the use of an alternate translation. For example, if the word “knowledge” were written in Grade 1 Braille, it would be 9 cells long. Using the contracted form, this would only occupy one cell.

The contractions in this Braille type can be in the form of whole-word contractions or part-word contractions. The most commonly used words usually have whole-word contractions, which you can use as is, while some words may need to be created using a number of part-word contractions. This particular Braille type has a complex system of rules, styles and usage.

The reason why ADA signage uses this particular Braille type and not Grade 1 Braille (or even Grade 3 Braille for that matter) is because of its ability to shorten otherwise long words or phrases. This makes the addition of Braille translations on any signage shorter and easier. This also makes it possible to use only a few dells of dots instead of a lot of cells to get the message across.