Introduction to ADA Accessibility Symbols

Introduction to ADA Accessibility Symbols

When ensuring accessibility at your business, it’s important to stay on top of the latest requirements and guidelines or hire an expert who does this already. For us in the signage industry this is incredibly essential for us and our clients, so when we design ADA signs we have in-house experts who know what is allowed and what is required with regards to your signs. One element that’s especially important is the use of key symbols and icons on exterior and interior signage.

Accessibility symbols are in our everyday lives, and they’re more present in your life than you may even know. The most prevalent of these is the international symbol for accessibility. RIG Global, the organization that hosted the conference where the symbol was first designed, states that the “World Congress formally adopted the International Symbol of Access in 1969.

International Symbol of Access

From Corada.com’s Guidance on Use of the International Symbol of Accessibility Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act, “a symbol other than the ISA will not comply with the ADA Standards unless it satisfies the “equivalent facilitation” provision (§103).” There has been some recent debate about a change to this symbol; however, for now no new versions have been adopted internationally.

Alternative Handicapped Accessible Symbol
Alternative design proposed by the The Accessible Icon Project

In addition to the international symbol for accessibility, there are also other key symbols that highlight accessibility services or tools. Some of these are used on signs, print materials, and digital displays including phones, TVs, and other monitors.

Telephone with Volume Control

Accessibility Symbol Telephone with Volume Control

This symbol represents access to telephones with enhanced sound and/or volume controls.

Braille Symbol

Braille Symbol

This symbol represents print material and signage that is written in Braille.

Audio Description Symbol

Audio Description Symbol

This symbol represents the availability of audio services for those with are blind or have low vision.

Assistive Listening Symbol

Assistive Listening System Symbol

This symbol represents access to audio systems or tools for those with impaired hearing.

Large Print Symbol

Large Print Symbol

This symbol represents the availability of print material or signage in large print font.

Sign Language Interpretation Symbol

Sign Language Interpretation Symbol

This symbol represents the availability of sign language services or individuals to assist those with impaired hearing.

Information Symbol

This symbol represents the availability of information, services, tools, or print material to aid in accessibility.

Visually Impaired Symbol

Symbol for Accessible Services for Individuals Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

This symbol represents the availability of services or tools for those who are blind or otherwise have low vision.

Telephone Typewriter Symbol

This symbol represents access to a telecommunication device that helps deaf or hearing impaired individuals via a telephone system.

Closed Captioning Symbol

This symbol represents the availability of closed captioning services on a display or displays.

(Source: Disability Access Symbols)

Summary

Though ADA guidelines are routinely reviewed, and sometimes modified and newly adapted at a national and international level, these symbols have stayed fairly consistent through the years. So a basic familiarity of these icons is a wonderful start to knowing a little bit more about the world of accessibility symbols.

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We rely on our in-house team of ADA experts to help our clients with their ADA needs, and you can rely on us too. If you need ADA signage for your business, you can call us at Ortwein Sign 1-866-867-9208 or leave a message for us here: https://ortweinsign.com/contact-us/.

ADA Compliance & Litigation

With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, rules and regulations were implemented across the United States to help ensure accessibility for visitors and patrons of public buildings, gov’t buildings, and businesses. Over the past 30 years, the effort to increase and ensure access for all has only strengthened and with that so has litigation and compliance enforcement.

ADA Enforcement

Enforcement of ADA regulations and codes is under the purview of the Department of Justice, who state on their website that “through lawsuits and settlement agreements, the Department of Justice has achieved greater access for individuals with disabilities in hundreds of cases.” Though the ultimate resolution of these settlements and lawsuits may vary from case to case, it’s important to note that “under Title III, the DOJ may obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation.”

States and Local Governments

Though the DOJ is the chief authority enforcing and ensuring ADA compliance, states and local governments may, with approval from the DOJ, modify their regulations so long as the changes are certified by the DOJ. “Certification bridges the gap between the federal and state enforcement processes. The certification process neither delegates ADA enforcement authority to the states nor eliminates an individual’s right to seek relief through the federal courts. However, effective enforcement of a certified code can mitigate the need for federal enforcement by ensuring that new or altered buildings are accessible. This process gives building owners and design professionals some assurance in advance of construction that the ADA requirements will be satisfied. And, if a lawsuit is filed, compliance with a certified code may be offered as rebuttable evidence of compliance with the ADA.”

Modifications by state and local governments must meet or exceed ADA codes and regulations. In his Sign Expo 2021 session, “Accessibility & the ADA Crash Course”Dave Miller, Managing Director of Nova Polymers, said that California is one such state that actually expanded their accessibility compliance rules. According to ADA.gov, “When these laws are inconsistent, the burden falls on building owners and design professionals to ensure compliance with both federal and state laws.”

Increased Litigation

Dave added in his presentation that as part of this increased emphasis on compliance 10 states have accessibility inspectors who, unlike general building inspectors, are solely focused on ADA compliance. Whether it’s due to the increased presence of inspectors in these 10 states, or the focus on accessibility nationally, the number of ADA Title III lawsuits has increased exponentially over the past 8 years, according to the data collected by Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

[Total Number of ADA Title III Federal Lawsuits Filed Each Year January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2021: 2013: 2,722; 2014: 4,436 63% increase over 2013; 2015: 4,789 8% increase over 2014; 2016: 6,601 38% increase over 2015; 2017: 7,663 16% increase over 2016; 2018: 10,163 33% increase over 2017; 2019: 11, 053 9% increase over 2018; 2020: 10,982 1% decrease from 2019]

[Total Number of ADA Title III Federal Lawsuits Filed Each Year January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2021: 2013:  2,722; 2014: 4,436 63% increase over 2013; 2015: 4,789 8% increase over 2014; 2016: 6,601 38% increase over 2015; 2017: 7,663 16% increase over 2016; 2018: 10,163 33% increase over 2017; 2019: 11, 053 9% increase over 2018; 2020: 10,982 1% decrease from 2019. Source: https://www.adatitleiii.com/2021/02/the-pandemic-slowed-2020-federal-ada-title-iii-filings-but-2021-may-be-a-record-breaker/]

Though ultimately Seyfarth recorded a modest slowdown of ADA litigation in 2020, due to the pandemic, as they conclude “In January 2021, 1,108 cases were filed – the most ever in a single month. If the filings continue at their current rate, 2021 will be another record-breaking year for ADA Title III filings in federal court.”

Importance of Compliance

Dave emphasized in his presentation that the DOJ’s fees and enforcement should be seen as a hammer to incentivize compliance and not a money maker. Whether you see this act as a punitive measure, or an incentive, with the increased litigation year over year, on access in physical locations and digitally, business owners should do their best to ensure they are up to ADA standards.

Our Ortwein Sign team is versed in ADA guidelines at the state and national level, so that when we build your sign we can assure you that we have built it in compliance and installed your signage per ADA regulations.