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5 Tips for Applying ADA-Compliant Design Principles to Your Client’s Space

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When you work in the interior design field, you’re mainly focused on aesthetics. After all, it’s your job to furnish and decorate your clients’ spaces. But when you’re hired to revamp a facility that’s open to the public, you should consider more than just appearance. You should also consider accessibility and take a better approach to ADA-compliant design.

Here’s why…

Why Accessibility Should Be a Priority for Interior Design

Ever since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect in 1990, it has had a significant impact on the way buildings in the United States are designed. Under Title III, the ADA requires all public accommodations to provide equal access to people with disabilities. Ultimately, it’s a law that business owners should avoid breaking if they don’t want to face financial consequences. 

So, it makes sense for you as an interior designer to have a firm grasp of ADA-compliant design. When you’re familiar with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, you know what features are necessary for compliance. That way, as you update a client’s facility, you can also help them avoid potential fines and lawsuits.

But that’s not the only reason you should prioritize accessibility.

The fact is that ADA-compliant design is a means of removing barriers and providing access to all individuals—and it’s not going anywhere. Although it can be challenging, it’s well worth keeping accessibility top of mind and coming up with creative solutions to improve a given space. In doing so, you can give your clients the chance to serve customers with disabilities better. Plus, you can stay ahead of the curve and demonstrate your expertise in thoughtful design that benefits everyone. 

5 Tips for Applying ADA-Compliant Design Principles

For every project that involves modifying a public space, you want to make sure the result is not only attractive but also functional and safe. Applying ADA-compliant design principles that allow for equitable use and minimal physical effort can go a long way. To help you out, we provided some tips below on putting these principles into practice.  

1) Be Mindful of Clearance under Desks and Tables

Adequate clearance is crucial in ADA-compliant design. That’s why you should keep this in mind when sourcing new desks and tables for a client’s facility. These areas should have enough space underneath to fit wheelchairs comfortably without the top surface being too high. Otherwise, people with disabilities who use mobility aids will have limited access. 

Per the ADA, tables must meet the following requirements

Of course, plenty of products on the market fit these dimensions. Additionally, adjustable desks are becoming more popular. So, it’s important to determine each client’s needs and choose the best option for them, their employees, and their customers.       

2) Aim for Hardware and Fixtures That Are Easy to Use

Hardware and fixtures tend to go overlooked in public spaces. But when they’re poorly designed, they can prevent those with disabilities from using them. So, if you’re tasked with updating a client’s space, aim for easy-to-use options whenever possible. 

Here are a few examples:

3) Make Signage Part of the Overall Flow

Room number sign with acacia backer from Erie Custom Signs’ Bay Series.

Signage is an essential part of ADA-compliant design. It allows everyone, including people with visual impairments, to get the information they need easily. So, when you’re revamping a client’s space, don’t forget to update their displays as well. 

Certain types of signage must meet ADA sign specifications, such as those identifying permanent rooms and common areas. But the good news is there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of how they look. In fact, you can and should make signage part of the overall flow by sourcing ADA-compliant signs that have colors, textures, shapes, and fonts that fit the space where they’ll be installed.     

Click here to check out our sign families!

4) Choose Smooth, Non-Trip Floor Surfaces 

Whether you’re upgrading an existing building or designing a new one from scratch, it’s vital that you choose the right flooring. A truly accessible space makes it easy for those who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids to move around freely. Smooth, non-trip floor surfaces such as wood, laminate, and vinyl are best. 

Some additional tips are as follows:

5) Opt for Soft, Low-Glare Lighting 

Finally, when deciding how to illuminate a client’s space, go with a soft, low-glare option whenever possible. Soft lighting is more comfortable for those with low vision. Plus, reducing glare from lights helps individuals see more easily. 

The ADA doesn’t outline specific requirements for lighting beyond the placement of fixtures. However, there are some ways you can improve the lighting in a client’s space. Introducing ground track LED lighting along hallways is a popular choice. The same goes for installing adjustable lighting that can be made brighter or dimmer as needed. 


Nowadays, accessibility is something you can’t afford to overlook when working on facilities that are open to the public. So, when you’re hired to help design or remodel a client’s space, make sure to apply ADA-compliant design principles everywhere you can. It’s well worth the effort, and your client will thank you for it!If one of your clients needs new signage, be sure to check out our ADA-compliant interior sign packages. In addition to meeting all ADA requirements, these displays can be customized to fit the look and feel of virtually any space!  

Filed Under: ADA Signage, Business Tips, Design and Customization

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