ADA signage

Breaking Down ADA Signage: General rules

Sharon Toji, aka “The ADA Sign Lady,” has been working with state and nationwide committees and organizations since 1992 to help designers, sign companies and owners of facilities to implement ADA signage standards. She originally represented the sign industry on the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) committee that writes the standards and now is the voting delegate for the Hearing Loss Association of America. She has written many articles on the topic, with the first one for NBM’s Sign Business Magazine back in 1992. Her manual “Signs and the ADA,” recently revised to include the 2010 revision of the ADA Standard, is used by people who want to learn about legal and accessible signs across the United States. You can learn more at

Any directional or informational sign or text about the permanent room or space that is identified with raised characters and Braille does have to follow the rules for visual signs.

Some signs have tactile sections and visual sections. For instance, a room identification sign might have a tactile room number (with Braille) to identify it, and then have its function in visual format. If the function might change from time to time, it can be printed on an insert. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of people who have various kinds of vision conditions that limit their ability to read signs are able to see. Only a small percentage of the population has no usable vision at all, and an even smaller percentage read Braille. That is the purpose of the tactile characters.

The ADA was passed to help everyone in our society have access and to be safe in our communal and public spaces. Wayfinding, safety, and identification signs that are readable by everyone, by those with reduced vision from any special condition, and those who need easy-to-read signs because they don’t hear verbal directions, or even by those who are color blind, help us realize the promise of this important Civil Rights Act.

For more information, check out, as well as my manual, “Signs and the ADA/ABA,” available at

—Sharon Toji, “ADA Sign Lady”