Braille and Tactile Signs

Ever wonder why every single bathroom sign that you see in the US carry similar features? If you look closely at the signs that you see beside bathroom doors in malls, office buildings, schools, and even hotels and restaurants, you will notice that these all carry very similar features. The fonts, colors, sizes, and shapes of these signs may not be exactly alike, but the features that you see on them are pretty much identical.

Why do these bathroom signs carry such features, and what features are these exactly? Restroom signs that follow the rules set by the government for accessibility can be easily called ADA bathroom signs, and this is because these are made with the guidelines set by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in mind. The guidelines set for signs that are to mark permanent rooms (which is what a bathroom is, since it does not change usage or features) include the use of 70% color contrast, non-glare and non-gloss finish, sans serif fonts, and tactile features that include raised characters as well as Braille.

The reason why these signs carry tactile features is to help people with visual impairments to easily find the bathrooms when these are needed. Since the ADA was conceived to give people equal rights in just about everything, the addition of tactile features on signs makes these understandable to those who read with the use of the fingertips. This is also why these signs are mounted at a height that makes it easy for anyone to touch these, in order to allow them to feel the tactile features on these signs.

If you are wondering why these signs need to carry raised letters alongside the addition of Braille translations, there is a very logical answer to this mystery. People don’t always get visual impairments at birth or at a young age. Some people lose their sight when they get older, and as such, they know how to recognize letters through their shapes. The tactile letters and numbers are for them. Even if they study Braille after they lose their sense of sight, those who are considered legally blind may find it easier to understand signs by reading the raised characters instead of the Braille translations.

This is also the reason why sans serif fonts are required of these signs. Since sans serif fonts do not have that extra stroke that serif fonts have for artistic appeal, the former is easier to understand because these are straightforward in design. Having the extra swoosh on your letters may only confuse whoever is reading these with their fingertips, and this is because these additional strokes may make these letters seem like others that are close to it in shape because of the added swoosh. 

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