ADA Sign Placement: Where Are ADA Signs Required?
You likely know that U.S. facilities open to the public need to have the proper signage mounted throughout the building. After all, it’s a major part of complying with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, you may not be familiar with the specifics of ADA sign placement. And no matter what industry you’re in, you should know where ADA signs are required.
Understanding exactly where ADA signage should be placed, including the types of buildings and specific rooms or spaces within those buildings, is essential for full compliance. It ensures the right signs are installed where they’re most needed. By knowing the precise requirements, businesses can enhance accessibility, cater to diverse needs, and foster a more inclusive atmosphere for all individuals.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of complex rules about ADA sign placement. Even sign professionals can find them tricky to unravel. That’s why we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding this topic to make things easier for you.
Why ADA Sign Placement Matters
ADA sign placement matters because it ensures legal compliance, safeguards a business’s reputation, and creates an inclusive environment for everyone.
First, proper placement of ADA signage is important for—you guessed it—staying compliant. There are several features building inspectors look at to determine if a building is up to code, and signage is one of them. If the right signs aren’t installed in the right places, a business could face serious consequences, including the following:
- They may be unable to open the building until the issues are fixed.
- They could receive fines for noncompliance in the tens of thousands of dollars.
There are other potential financial repercussions for businesses, too. For instance, they could be hit with costly ADA-related lawsuits filed by individuals with disabilities. They may also lose business due to bad PR or opening setbacks.
For sign professionals, failing to advise clients on the correct placement of ADA signage can also ruin credibility…
Beyond that, the presence of signage (or lack thereof) has a huge impact on the people who work in or visit a building. Inadequate ADA sign placement can make it challenging for those with disabilities to navigate and access essential facilities. Imagine a scenario where restroom signs aren’t correctly placed, or room numbers are unclear. This can lead to confusion and frustration for those just trying to find their desired destination.
Ultimately, proper placement of ADA signage can prevent legal repercussions and ensure that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can navigate and enjoy spaces with ease and dignity. It’s about making spaces welcoming and functional for everyone who walks through the doors.
Where Are ADA Signs Required?
The short answer is ADA signs are required in any building in the U.S. that is open to the public. Typically, these displays must be installed at the doorway of every permanent room and space. Although there are some exceptions, this is the general rule to follow.
You may still have questions if you’re not well-versed in ADA sign guidelines. As you’ve probably discovered, translating the ADA—and even the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design—can be a challenge. However, the tips below are helpful in understanding ADA sign placement in depth.
- ADA-compliant displays (i.e., those with braille and tactile elements, among other features) are required when the purpose is to designate a permanent space in a building. This means that signage should be installed next to all areas that will serve the same function for more than 7 days.
- Compliant signs are unnecessary when they’ll only be used for 7 days or less. This means that such signage is not necessary for identifying a temporary space in a building.
- ADA displays are needed when an area of the building pertains to safety. This means that such signage should be installed next to elevators, fire exits, and stairways.
- ADA signage isn’t required in parking lots (except for accessible parking spaces), in areas not meant for public use, or outside of the building where a business’s name/address is provided. This means that any area of the building with signage that includes nonessential information isn’t held to ADA standards.
As signage is one of the most common noncompliance issues, all traditional businesses and private places that are open to the public should follow the above guidelines.
What Rooms Need ADA Signs?
As previously mentioned, all permanent spaces and rooms in public facilities must have ADA-compliant signage.
Section 216.2 of the ADA Standards provides more specific instructions on signage. It states buildings must have compliant signage that provides labels, names, or designations for interior spaces or rooms. Specifically, this applies to areas where the sign is not likely to change over the course of time and will serve the same function for more than one week.
Common examples of areas and rooms that need ADA signs are as follows:
- Room/floor numbers or letters
- Areas of refuge
- Locker rooms
- Conference rooms
- Storage rooms
- Changing rooms
- Exam rooms
- Electrical rooms
- Break rooms
- IT rooms
- Mechanical rooms
- Utility rooms
Correct ADA sign placement for permanent spaces like these is essential to accessibility. Having such displays installed confirms to people with limited vision that they’ve arrived at the right place. So, any room used by those who enter a building should be adequately marked.
It’s worth noting that both visual and textile requirements apply to signage labeling permanent rooms or areas like those listed above.
What Is a Temporary vs. Permanent Space?
When discussing ADA sign placement, it’s important to remember that all permanent spaces need ADA-compliant displays. However, there can be some confusion about temporary versus permanent spaces. It helps to look at it from two angles:
- Whether the space is a permanent structure
- Whether the function of the space can change
First, there’s the space itself. A good rule of thumb for determining what category a room’s structure falls under is this: If the walls are connected to the ceiling, the wall, or both, it’s considered permanent. Otherwise, it’s a temporary space.
Then, there’s the space’s functionality. Although the wording “not likely to change” gives a little leeway, most rooms will still fall under the designation of a permanent space. For instance, restrooms, kitchens, and libraries are all designed with a specific purpose in mind. So, they would require significant overhauls if they were to be used for something else.
An example of a room that could be considered somewhat likely to change would be a classroom. Depending on the school’s needs, it could be an art lab one year and a math classroom the next. Therefore, an ADA-compliant room name sign might not be required if it can be reasonably expected to change use frequently. However, a room number sign would still be necessary to help students identify the right classroom.
Other examples of temporary areas that don’t require ADA-compliant signage designating the name of the space include the following:
- Exhibit areas
- Health screening areas
- Bleacher areas
- Passageways around construction areas
- Voting areas
What Other Rules Are There for ADA Sign Placement?
Knowing what rooms need ADA signs is only part of proper ADA sign placement. You also need to understand how displays must be installed. There are strict rules about signage installation—specifically, adhering to height requirements for mounting signs.
When hanging ADA signs in a public facility, it’s important to keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Generally, ADA signage with braille and tactile elements should be installed on the latch side of the door to the room being identified.
- ADA displays should measure no lower than 48 inches from the floor to the bottom of the lowest row of text and no higher than 60 inches from the floor to the top of the highest text.
- If there isn’t enough space to mount the sign in the specified location, it may be installed on the nearest adjacent wall in a clearly visible location.
- ADA signs should not be mounted directly on a door. Exception: When no space is available next to a door, a sign may be mounted directly on the door if it closes automatically and doesn’t have a hold-open device.
Knowing where to put ADA signage is crucial for making buildings inclusive and following the rules. The guidelines can be difficult to understand, but you should have a better grasp of ADA sign placement now. The key takeaway is that ADA-compliant signs are required for permanent rooms and any areas related to the safety of those in a building open to the public.
However, even if ADA signage isn’t required for a particular room, having it is still a good idea. Rather than meeting the bare minimum in terms of ADA standards, an organization should focus on efforts that will make the building more accessible for everyone.
It’s simply the right thing to do. Plus, it doesn’t cost a significant amount of money to add extra signs for rooms that may or may not be legally required to have them.
If your or your client’s building is missing some displays, explore our predesigned sign packages. They offer multiple signs in the same style for different rooms and purposes, ensuring a consistent look and feel!