Signage and ADA Compliance
Having worked with US businesses, I’ve become quite familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). It exists to ensure that public spaces are accessible to everyone, and there’s an equivalent in the UK: the Disability Discrimination Act. Making a business’s signage ADA compliant is a legal obligation in the US, but it’s also a commitment towards that business’s customers. Website compliance can also have an effect on search engine rankings. Read on to find out about the basic signage requirements of the ADA – and how we helped two US businesses to integrate them into their brands.
Insufficient contrast and too much glare are major problems for anyone whose vision is impaired. The ADA requires that public indoor signage should have a non-glare finish. There should be a strong contrast between background and characters, whether that’s light-on-dark or dark-on-light. All lettering should be in a plain, sans-serif font: Helvetica, Trebuchet, Verdana and Franklin Gothic are all excellent and approved choices. Spacing, stroke thickness and character height all play into visibility too, and these are minutely regulated by the ADA guidelines.
Use of braille is a fundamental requirement of the ADA, and for a very good reason. Braille signage allows your customers who are blind, or have reduced vision, to stay safe, feel welcome and get all the information they need. However, it’s crucial to use braille in the right way.
The braille script required by the ADA is Contracted (Grade 2) Braille. Contracted Braille incorporates shortcuts that allow for more information to be presented in a smaller space. In order to keep your braille usage ADA compliant, it’s important to follow their rules about shape, spacing and placement. For example, all information in braille must be presented on the same line, and the dots must be rounded or domed in shape.
Mounting your signs in the right way and at the correct height is key, especially if these signs include braille. The ADA specifies a tightly restricted range of acceptable heights and locations, precisely so that your customers always know where to find the information they need. This also ensures that the signs can be accessed by children and wheelchair users, for example.
At this point, it might seem as if following ADA guidelines is a complicated and restrictive business. While it’s certainly a lot to take on board, these guidelines actually make great sense. An experienced designer will be able to create signage that’s beautiful, individual, legally compliant and accessible to all. Striking this balance is one of my specialities.
The Jesse is a great example. As part of our brand strategy for this design-conscious boutique hotel in Reno, Nevada, we created signage that perfectly expressed the unique character of the place, while remaining totally ADA compliant. The simple lettering and contrasting background added an elegant touch to the design.
At The Jesse’s sister business, Estella Tacos y Mezcal, we achieved the same harmonious effect with a totally different look. The muted colour palette with pops of brightness, evoking Estella’s tacos, was seamlessly integrated with fully accessible signage in compliance with the ADA regulations.
Because The Jesse and Estella are located in the US, they’re subject to the ADA. Businesses in the UK must comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, which also regulates websites and signage. If you’re interested to know how we can bring our expertise to your brand, wherever you’re located, just get in touch!