ADA Font Rules: How to Meet ADA Compliance Standards with Your Sign’s Font
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Why Using an ADA Font in Signage Is Important
There are a number of standards that signs must meet to be considered ADA compliant—one of which is the font used on the sign.
Because these signs must be designed with people who are visually impaired in mind, there are certain criteria that business owners (and the sign fabricators they hire) must follow to make sure signs are easily read, including font style, case, size, spacing, etc.
To illustrate the importance of ADA font, consider the following scenario…
You’re trying to read a sign with small, ornate lettering from a distance. You squint your eyes in an effort to focus on the words, but the message is still unclear. You start walking toward the sign, eventually closing the distance and ending up mere inches away.
Attempting to read such a poorly designed sign would be frustrating for someone with 20/20 vision, let alone an individual with 20/200 or less.
What would be a challenging task for you would be much more difficult for someone with a severe visual impairment. And if an individual is unable to read a sign, they could miss out on important information about how to navigate the building, where to go in case of emergency, or whether a given area is off limits.
Plus, there’s the not-so-small matter of legality. Failure to comply with ADA rules and regulations (yes, even small issues such as font) can result in a business getting hit with sizable fines or lawsuits.
As with all accessibility features, signage must be carefully designed and fabricated, taking ADA guidelines into consideration every step of the way.
Requirements for ADA Font
There are several standards regarding ADA-compliant font that both sign fabricators and business owners should be aware of, including the following:
All characters on a sign should be uppercase, and lowercase should be avoided.
This consistency helps make the words on the sign stand out and enables visually impaired people to read the sign without having to strain their eyes as much.
Characters on the sign should not be italic, script, oblique, highly decorative, or in any other unusual form. Additionally, all ADA font should be sans serif.
What exactly is sans serif?
Basically, any sans serif is going to have straight edges, without little hooks or decorative elements.
Examples of such fonts include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Century Gothic, Regular
- Franklin Gothic
- Frutiger LT
- Futura Std
- Myriad Pro
Additional examples of sans serif, ADA font types may be found here.
It should be noted that while businesses aren’t necessarily prohibited from using more ornate lettering on their signage, all vital information on compliance signs should meet the criteria set by the ADA. This includes characters on restroom signs, room signs, and directional signs.
3) Character Proportions
Per the ADA, all characters must be chosen from fonts where the width of an uppercase “O” is 55 percent minimum and 110 percent maximum of the height of the uppercase “I.”
4) Character Height
The height of characters measured vertically from their base should be a minimum of 5/8 inch (16 mm) and a maximum of 2 inches (51 mm) based on the height of an uppercase “I.”
5) Stroke Thickness
Stroke thickness of the uppercase letter “I” should be 15 percent maximum of the height of the character.
6) Character Spacing
Character spacing is measured between the 2 closest points of adjacent raised characters within a message; this does not, however, include word spaces. Where characters have rectangular cross sections, spacing between individual raised characters should be 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) minimum and 4 times the raised character stroke-width maximum.
Where characters have other cross sections, spacing between individual raised characters should be 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) minimum and 4 times the raised character stroke width maximum at the base of the cross sections, and 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) minimum and 4 times the raised character stroke-width maximum at the top of the cross sections.
Characters must be separated from raised borders and decorative elements at least 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) minimum.
7) Line Spacing
Spacing between the baselines of separate lines of raised characters within a message should be 135 percent minimum and 170 percent maximum of the raised character height.
Choosing an ADA Font
Given the aforementioned standards, the most popular choices for ADA font in signage are Arial and Helvetica.
However, many business owners find these fonts to be boring. As a result, they instead opt for more creative ways to make signs decorative and appealing while still following ADA standards.
If a sign shop has a graphic designer on staff, finding a more attractive, eye-catching font that doesn’t violate ADA standards becomes a much easier task. And doing so can ensure that a business’ new signs not only improve accessibility for all visitors but also complement the organization’s existing décor.
Though there are many factors to take into consideration when designing compliance signage, it’s important to remember that such displays don’t have to be ugly!
Ensuring that signage has been created with an appropriate ADA font so it can achieve compliance is crucial—for both the sign shops that fabricate the signs and the businesses that install them for their visitors’ convenience.
That’s why it’s worth running through the aforementioned list of criteria that an ADA font must meet.
If a client desires a style, shape, or size of lettering that isn’t up to ADA standards, then an alternative can be recommended.
But, if a sign professional lacks the time, resources, or confidence to craft a client’s ADA sign order, it’s best to bring in an outside party for assistance—particularly one that has a significant amount of experience in making attractive signage that adheres to all ADA compliance regulations.
Contact us today for more information or to submit a design for a sign order.