When The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 passed, the act helped codify federal requirements to help increase access to all persons in public buildings. If you are a property developer, property manager, or business owner, then these requirements very likely impact your business’s signage and what you need to do to with your signage to ensure your building meets or exceeds these accessibility standards. In this blog we will discuss whether your building qualifies as a public space, and if so what you need to know to ensure your signage is compliant.

What is considered a public building?

According to the American Bar Association, Title III of the American Disabilities Act “prohibits discrimination based on disability in places of public accommodation.”

This encompasses a variety of businesses, government buildings, and even modes of transportation, including:

  • Restaurants
  • Hotels/motels
  • Shops
  • Movie theaters
  • Private schools (including housing)
  • Doctors’ offices and private hospitals
  • Day care centers
  • Gyms
  • Organizations offering courses or examinations related to:
  • Applications, licensing, certification or credentialing for professional or trade purposes
  • Privately operated transit (includes charter buses, airport shuttles, hotel shuttles)

Source: https://www.ada.gov/topics/title-iii/

According to ADA.gov, Commercial Buildings on the other hand, such as warehouses, factories, and office building, only need to meet the requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

Does a church or a religious organization need to be ADA compliant?

According to the Department of Justice and Section 307 of the ADA, “Religious organizations and entities controlled by religious organizations have no obligations under the ADA. Even when a religious organization carries out activities that would otherwise make it a public accommodation, the religious organization is exempt from ADA coverage.”

What are the specific signage requirements according to the ADA for public buildings?

In the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, signage is broken down into the following categories:

Directional Signs

In our blog Wayfinding Systems: Solutions Through Signage, we define directional signs as: “Directional signs show the direction or location of the destination to be directed by visitors. These signs are an explicit navigation tool. They are expected to make visitors more efficient and comfortable in an environment.”

Information Signs

In the same blog, we define an Information Sign as a sign that conveys “specifics and detailed information, with the sign form being adjusted to the information that is to be conveyed.”

Hoistway Signs

According to AboutMechanics.com, Hoistways are the shafts that allow an elevator to move up and down. Hoistway signs are signs that are placed on the interior frame of an elevator to help identify the floor, and this is done with text and braille that fits ADA signs.

Identification Signs

In our blog Wayfinding Systems: Solutions Through Signage, we emphasize that identification signage gives the identity of an object or place according to its type and function.

Tactile Signs

According to the International Sign Association, a tactile sign is “a sign, or an area within a larger sign or area, which conveys its message through raised or engraved artwork, making it accessible to the visually impaired. Required by A.D.A. for all permanently identified rooms.”

Are there specific sign exceptions within ADA Compliance?

Yes. Though many signs must be ADA compliant, there are some signs that are excluded such as:

  • Building directories
  • Menus
  • Seat and Row designations in assembly areas
  • Occupant names
  • Building addresses
  • Company names and logos
  • Signs in parking facilities
  • Temporary signs (7 days or less)
  • Detention and correctional facility signage in public use areas
  • Exterior signs that are not located at the door to the space they serve

What signs are required to be ADA compliant?

Though there are some exceptions, there are many sign types that are required to be ADA compliant:

Identification Signs

Interior and exterior signs identifying permanent rooms and spaces

Directional and Information Signs

  • Signs that provide direction to or information about interior spaces and facilities of the site
  • Signs for means of egress
  • Signs that provide areas of refuge
  • Signs that provide directions to accessible means of egress
  • Directional signs indicating the location of the nearest toilet room or bathing room

Entrance and Exit Signage

  • Doors at exit passageways, exit discharge, and exit stairways
  • Entrances that must comply require identification with the International Symbol of Accessibility
  • Elevators that must comply must be identified with the International Symbol of Accessibility
  • Toilet rooms or bathing rooms that need to comply must be identified by the International Symbol of Accessibility

TTYs Signage

  • Identification and directional signs for public TTYs
  • Public TTYs shall be identified by the International Symbol of TTY
  • Each gathering space that provides assistive listening systems must provide signage informing patrons of the availability of said system

What are TTYs?

According to ADA.gov, TTYs “is an abbreviation for teletypewriter. Machinery that employs interactive text-based communication through the transmission of coded signals across the telephone network. TTYs may include, for example, devices known as TDDs (telecommunication display devices or telecommunication devices for deaf persons) or computers with special modems. TTYs are also called text telephones.”

What are the Universal Symbols of Accessibility?

The Universal Symbols of Accessibility help identify points of access as well as access to services. Most famously these symbols include the International Symbol of Access.

Source: https://www.ada.gov/law-and-regs/design-standards/2010-stds/