Understanding ADA Sign Mounting Height Requirements
Whether you’re installing ADA-compliant signs in your building or a client’s facility, there are several factors to consider. For instance, you need to be sure you hang each sign according to ADA sign mounting height requirements. But if you’re unfamiliar with the full scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act—and the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design—this aspect of sign installation can leave you feeling confused.
We get it.
That’s why we wanted to take the opportunity to go over a few key issues, including the following:
- Why it’s essential to be familiar with these requirements
- What ADA sign mounting requirements to follow
- How to ensure that signs are mounted correctly
Armed with this information (and some additional tips), you can take the necessary steps to ensure all compliance signs meet ADA sign mounting height requirements. That way, you can avoid noncompliance issues and let all visually impaired individuals navigate the building safely.
Why You Should Be Familiar with ADA Sign Mounting Height Requirements
Many people wonder if it’s essential to know about ADA sign mounting height requirements. Whether you’re a business owner, property manager, or sign professional, the answer is yes. After all, you must know how to hang signs properly to do it yourself or direct a client. And make no mistake—incorrectly installing signs can significantly impact the business and its customers.
Just because an ADA sign is fabricated with all the necessary features doesn’t mean the hard work is over. Elements such as font, color, finish, and braille are only part of ADA sign specifications. The other is proper placement.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) requires ADA signage to be mounted uniformly throughout buildings across the country. This gives visually impaired and sightless people a method of locating and identifying exactly where they are. All facilities that are accessible to the public are required to follow these guidelines—or risk severe consequences.
Ultimately, installing signs correctly protects businesses from running into noncompliance issues, which can result in damaging lawsuits or hefty fines.
Protecting Those with Visual Impairments
Ensuring that displays are installed according to ADA sign mounting height requirements also protects visitors, customers, and employees with visual impairments. As mentioned previously, the reason for these guidelines is to help such individuals determine where they are. It enables them to navigate a building with ease in normal circumstances and quickly evacuate in emergencies.
Of course, this can be hard to grasp for those who take their sight for granted. That’s why we came up with an exercise that can help…
At Erie Custom Signs, we recommend that our clients imagine they are sightless and in some public building conducting their day-to-day business. Suddenly, a fire alarm goes off, and they must evacuate the building as quickly as possible under chaotic conditions. With panic ensuing and people scrambling to escape, the visually impaired person must make their way out of the building. With their lives in danger, attempting to locate an exit and mistaking the janitor’s closet or a storage room for an exit door could cost them their life! Knowing where to find the identifying sign is as important as the information contained on the sign.
A visually impaired person knows where the signs are supposed to be.
What ADA Sign Mounting Height Requirements to Follow
In September 2010, the DOJ adopted new standards for ADA signage, among other structural features. These standards took effect on March 15, 2012, replacing the DOJ’s original accessibility standards. These apply to facilities covered by the ADA, including places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities.
When it comes to ADA sign mounting height requirements, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design provide the following:
- Installation Height and Location. Signs with tactile characters shall comply with 703.4.
- Height Above Finish Floor or Ground. Tactile characters on signs shall be located 48 inches (1220 mm) minimum above the finish floor or ground surface, measured from the baseline of the lowest tactile character, and 60 inches (1525 mm) maximum above the finish floor or ground surface, measured from the baseline of the highest tactile character.
Like with most government documents, interpreting ADA sign mounting height guidelines can be subjective and open to interpretation. The most straightforward approach is this: Install your braille signs on the latch side of the door no lower than 48 inches from the floor and no higher than 60 inches from the floor.
To get a visual representation of the placement needed for ADA signs, we marked the walls in our office as though we were mounting a hotel room sign. We discovered that if an individual of roughly 5 feet stood in front of a sign mounted so that the bottom of the top line of text was at 60 inches, it would be right at their eye level. The 48-inch mark seems low at first glance, but this height makes sense. It allows a person who uses a wheelchair to reach the sign if they are blind or have a vision impairment.
It's worth noting that these details are not arbitrary or made up by a random person. Much of the ADA code is suggested by the United States Access Board. Given that this agency is committed to ensuring equality for people with disabilities, its recommendations are undoubtedly based on extensive research.
How to Ensure That Signs Are Mounted Correctly
As mentioned above, a best practice is to install braille signs on the latch side of the door between 48 and 60 inches from the floor. But you or your client may wind up in a situation where this won’t work. Fortunately, there are guidelines for many unique cases too.
- What if you’re installing an ADA sign near double doors?
This depends on whether there is a single active leaf or both leaves are in use. With the former, you should mount the sign on the inactive lead. With the latter, you should mount the sign on the right-hand side of the right door. Either way, you want to hang the sign at the same height (i.e., between 48 and 60 inches from the floor).
- What if there is insufficient space to mount the sign in the specified location?
In this case, the sign may be installed on the nearest adjacent wall in a visible location. However, it should be placed at the same height.
Of course, there’s a little more to know about hanging ADA signage than just height placement. In any situation, reviewing the ADA sign mounting height requirements under the 2010 Standards is vital to ensure that you’re installing signage in a way that allows easy visibility.
You can access a PDF of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design here. Once that is open, follow these steps:
- Click Ctrl + F to search.
- Type 703 into the search window.
- Navigate to the section about Signs.
Reviewing the guidelines for signage will allow you to familiarize yourself with some basic requirements. So, make sure to bookmark this resource for easy access. If you need simplified directions that cover more than just height, you can also download and save our guide below.
Additional Tips for Meeting ADA Sign Height Requirements
- Remember that rules and guidelines can also vary by state.
Although all public facilities are required to meet federal guidelines, some cities and states also have specific guidelines. That’s why we recommend reaching out to local and state inspectors before installing signage. Such individuals are knowledgeable about ADA sign mounting height. They can be consulted when there are discrepancies in your understanding of what you’re required to do to meet ADA compliance.
- Don’t attempt to “eyeball” the placement—measure it.
It may be tempting to install an ADA sign where it seems to fit. However, this is strongly discouraged. Attempting to “eyeball” the placement could make the sign noncompliant and challenging for those in wheelchairs to read. So, get out the measuring tape and confirm that you’ve marked the appropriate spot for a sign.
- Non-tactile signs don’t follow the same rules.
Though following ADA sign height requirements for non-tactile signs wouldn’t hurt, remember that it’s not necessary. Such signs don’t follow the same rules. For starters, they can be installed virtually anywhere in a facility. Also, visual character signs require an installation height between 40 and 70 inches above the finish floor.
A firm grasp of ADA sign mounting height requirements is vital to achieving compliance. That’s why it’s well worth familiarizing yourself with the rules. Otherwise, you risk making a minor error that could result in damaging lawsuits, hefty fines, or loss of business. Worse, you could inadvertently make things more complicated—even dangerous—for those with visual impairments.
If you still have questions or concerns about installing ADA signage, feel free to reach out to the experts at Erie Custom Signs.
Having a firm grasp of ADA sign mounting height requirements is a key part of achieving compliance, which is why it’s well worth familiarizing yourself with the rules. Otherwise, you risk making a minor error that could result in significant fines or loss of business.
If you still find yourself with questions or concerns about installing ADA signage, feel free to reach out to the experts at Erie Custom Signs.