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An Overview of California ADA Signage Requirements

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Why Is It Important to Know California ADA Signage Requirements?

There are several guidelines to follow when designing, manufacturing, and mounting any ADA sign. In addition to adhering to federal rules, businesses must comply with local and state laws too. For California-based businesses and sign shops that work with clients from “The Golden State,” being well versed in California ADA signage requirements is strongly recommended.

The state of California has stricter, more distinct rules for ADA signage than the rest of the country. This means that California-based facilities must be outfitted with signage specific to the state. This is key to avoiding hefty fines, drawn-out lawsuits, and unhappy customers.

When it comes to California ADA signage, there are some major legal issues to consider, especially regarding restroom signs. These include the following:

Given that California ADA signage requirements are extensive, it would take a while to go over each one in detail. Business owners and sign fabricators are encouraged to review all relevant materials on the California Building Standards Commission’s website, along with the California Legislature Information website.   

In the meantime, however, getting a general overview can be extremely helpful, regardless of whether you need signs or are in the sign business yourself. That’s why we wanted to take a quick look at some restroom-specific rules under California law. 

But before that, a brief history lesson is in order…

How Were California ADA Restroom Signage Rules Created?

Before the ADA was passed by Congress in 1990, an inventor and mathematician named Samuel Genensky set out to make restrooms easier for those with visual impairments to identify.

Genensky suffered from limited vision himself—left with no sight in his left eye and only 20/1000 vision in his right eye after a medical accident when he was a newborn. So, he understood the difficulties others faced in searching for the correct restroom. His solution was to use large geometric symbols that could be identified by touch and better seen by those with poor vision.

As a result of Genensky’s efforts, California began marking women’s restrooms with a 12-inch circle and men’s restrooms with a 12-inch equilateral triangle.

However, the ADA created its own guidelines for bathroom signs when the law passed in 1990. Rather than eliminating the displays residents had used for so long, California officials decided to keep their guidelines while also adopting federal ADA signage laws. That’s why businesses in the state must comply with both federal and California ADA signage requirements.  

What Do California ADA Restroom Sign Requirements Look Like?

Custom California restroom signs for men, women, and all gender featuring pictograms of dancers from Erie Custom Signs.

At a national level, the ADA only requires one sign to identify a public restroom. Under California law, however, two signs are required for a public restroom in most cases: 

  1. A geometric display that meets California ADA signage requirements (which we’ll discuss in this section)
  2. A federal ADAAG display that meets standard ADA sign requirements (which we’ll discuss in the next section)

As mentioned previously, this law predates the ADA. The California-mandated signs feature two geometric tactile symbols without braille, text, or pictograms—blank signs that California residents learned to identify by sight and feel. 

(If you don’t live in California, there’s a good chance you’ve never seen these symbols on public restroom doors before. That’s because everywhere else uses the national standard that was initially adopted in 1990 and has been slightly modified since then.)

How Title 24 Guidelines Come into Play

California ADA restroom sign requirements are found under Title 24 of the state’s Building Standards Code. Under Title 24, all doors leading up to a public restroom must be clearly identified by a geometric symbol.  

How AB 1732 Guidelines Come into Play

Enacted in 2017, the California Assembly Bill 1732 (also known as the Equal Restroom Access Act) was written to fight gender identity discrimination. Under California AB 1732, all single-occupancy restrooms in public facilities are required to be accessible to everyone, which means gender-neutral restroom signs are needed.

It’s important to note that local codes can also vary, with some cities requiring additional features on all California ADA signage, particularly those displays used to identify restrooms. 

How Do California Requirements Differ from Federal Guidelines?

Remember that all states must adhere to federal standards when it comes to ADA displays, despite what additional requirements they may set for their own signage. This means that, where both visual and tactile characters are required, either one sign with both visual and tactile characters or two separate signs—one with visual and one with tactile—must be provided.

Federal ADAAG displays used to complement geometric displays must include several elements.

California ADA signage requirements for installation are slightly different as well. 

Here’s how…

Per the ADA, standard restroom signs must be located between 48 and 60 inches above the finished floor or ground surface measured to the base of the lowest braille cells. The sign must be placed on the wall adjacent to the latch side of the door or, if there is not enough space, on the nearest adjacent wall—preferably on the right.

However, geometric California ADA signage must be centered horizontally on the door between 58 and 60 inches above the floor measured from the centerline of the symbol. The same rules apply to gender-neutral displays that are required for single-occupancy restrooms. 


As you can see, there are several California ADA signage requirements to keep in mind. It’s crucial for businesses and sign shops to be aware of what features are necessary. Moreover, it’s important to remember that even those in “The Golden State” have to follow federal guidelines too. 

The consequences of noncompliance—such as failing to follow signage rules—can differ from state to state. However, it’s fair to say that buildings lacking in carefully designed and installed signage are left vulnerable to hefty fines and even potential lawsuits. 

For more information about California ADA signage, feel free to reach out to the experts at Erie Custom Signs. You can even shop our e-commerce store for attractive, high-quality California restroom signs that ship in days! 

Filed Under: ADA Signage

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