When people are told that their signs need to be ADA compliant and should be easy for people with visual impairments to read, the first thing that they usually consider is the addition of Braille to these signs. While it is ideal that Braille be added to signs so that people with visual disabilities will be able to read and understand them, sometimes having Braille on these signs may not be enough.

When you say that a sign is “tactile”, it basically means that it can be easily read with a person’s sense of touch. Braille is made to be read by people using their fingers, however not all individuals with vision impairments actually know how to read Braille. This is why there are other rules that are imposed by the government regarding these signs when it comes to them being “readable by touch”.

This is the reason why the ADAAG rules regarding signs with Braille state that these should also have raised letters and pictograms that are easy to identify with the sense of touch, or in other words, are “tactile”. Aside from these regulations, ADA signs with Braille and tactile characters should also follow certain font requirements, correct letter and Braille dots spacing as well as upper case and lower case considerations.

Rules that cover the capitalization of letters written in Braille, for example, state that it is not necessary to capitalize a letter unless it is:

  • a proper noun or a name
  • is the first letter in the first word of a sentence
  • is an individual letter, parts of an acronym or initials 

When it comes to the fonts that are considered compliant and easy to read by sense of touch, anything that is sans serif is considered the best option. These letters should be italicized, in script, oblique or highly stylized. Examples of fonts that are considered compliant and tactile enough for vision impaired individuals include Trebuchet, Helvetica, Lucida Sans and Arial Medium. Fonts that are commonly used by a lot of people, but are not considered compliant include Times Roman and Garamond.

It should also be noted that while some people say that size does not matter, the size of the letters on these signs DO matter. The minimum recommended height for letters on these signs (considered easy to read by touch) is 3/4” high. Spacing is also an issue you need to address, with the proper spacing being 1/8” between letters.