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ADA Signage Readability: How to Get Over Language Barriers

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Why is ADA signage readability important?

Though it’s necessary for all buildings that are open to the public, ADA signage readability is especially critical for facilities such as schools and hospitals—spaces that regularly receive visitors who don’t necessarily know how to read English.

If a client outfits their building with ADA signage that only contains English text, they risk ostracizing those who speak and read other languages.

Not only can this damage a business’ attempt at creating a sense of inclusiveness in the building but also potentially increase customer service issues. At the very least, staff members who are stationed in the front office will have to field more questions that could otherwise be addressed by having the right signage in place. However, it could also lead to visitors lodging formal complaints that could then damage the organization’s reputation.

That’s why sign shop owners need to take this into consideration when working with businesses that receive a lot of traffic from foreign exchange students, young children, and other individuals who may not be able to easily read English.

How can ADA signage readability be improved?

1) Incorporate images into signage

Images can go a long way toward improving ADA signage readability. There’s a reason as to why restroom signs usually have male and female figures on them, and why stair signs often have pictures of steps—they make it easy for visitors to understand where a particular door will lead them.

For facilities such as hospitals and schools, images should be used to convey a sign’s intended meaning in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. They can not only make it easy for non-English speakers to navigate a large facility but also simplify things for younger visitors who may not have learned to read yet.

Sign shop owners who are working with clients that operate in such spheres should also make recommendations for different images to incorporate. For instance, an art room can be marked by signage with an image of a paintbrush, while a music room can be designated by a sign with an instrument or musical note graphic. Additionally, putting basic maps on signage can be tremendously helpful for wayfinding purposes.

It should be noted that some pictograms are required under ADA guidelines, which is why it’s important for sign shop owners who are outsourcing their orders to choose a business that’s well-versed in ADA rules and regulations.

2) Use a color coding system

Introducing color is another great way to improve ADA signage readability, and it’s a method that sign shop owners should bring up during client meetings.

Many people are under the impression that ADA guidelines leave no room for creativity. In reality, this simply isn’t true. Though there are some elements related to color that must be included in signage per ADA guidelines, they are focused on minimizing glare and improving contrast. There’s more flexibility when it comes to actually selecting shades for ADA signage.

With that in mind, sign shop owners can recommend color coding signs in a client’s facility to help guide the way for visitors. For example, hospitals, colleges, and other large facilities that may be intimidating to visitors can use specific colors to identify sections of the building.

Further, color can also be used to drive home the message an organization wants to convey. Through smart use of color, signage can have greater functionality and aesthetic appeal. For example, in hospital settings, softer pinks and blues can designate maternity wards, while bright reds can mark exits.

3) Optimize signage placement

Though clients may have a general idea as to where they want to place their signage, there are special rules that must be followed for ADA signs. The reason for these requirements is to ensure that visitors to a public facility can easily read the displays presented to them. Before installing signs, it’s important for those involved in the project to check state and local codes to stay compliant.

The following are a few rules for ADA sign mounting that should be followed:

To further improve ADA signage readability, it’s important to make sure that each sign is in clear view. Directional signs, in particular, should be installed in hallway forks, foyers, and other areas where visitors will have to make a decision about where to go next.

What types of businesses should take steps toward increasing ADA signage readability?

As previously mentioned, organizations that operate in the health care or educational sphere should be particularly focused on improving their ADA signage readability. However, sign shop owners should recommend the tactics highlighted above to all of their clients, regardless of industry.

In doing so, clients can obtain the ADA signage they need to stay compliant, while also creating a sense of inclusiveness within their building and improving communication with visitors who may find it difficult to read signs with traditional English text.

Moreover, it can put sign shop owners who suggest these tactics in a position of authority—increasing the likelihood of the client becoming a return customer and recommending the sign shop to others.

Filed Under: ADA Signage

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