ADA Signs


General Overview of ADA Signs

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in July, 1990 with enforcement beginning in July, 1991, and then revised in September 2010 (2010 Standards for Accessible Design) with the compliance date beginning March 15, 2012. The law is intended to protect the civil rights of the disabled thereby prohibiting discrimination in employment as well as access to goods and services. The ADA is comprised of five parts (or titles) and of the five parts Title III Public Accommodations includes signage. According to Title III, all public accommodations and commercial facilities must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

Public Accommodations

  • Defined as private establishments providing goods and services to the general public
  • Includes places such as hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants, etc…

Signs Designating Permanent Rooms & Spaces

  • Both tactile and Braille lettering must be used
  • Includes signs that provide designations or names for interior rooms and spaces (a sign that is not likely to change over time such as restroom signs, room numbers, floor numbers, room names, etc…)

Commercial Facilities

  • Defined as non-residential establishments, not open to the general public but affect commerce
  • Includes places such as office buildings, factories and warehouses

Overhead/Hanging Signs

  • Includes signs that hang or are suspended overhead
  • Not required to utilize tactile or Braille lettering
  • Must meet requirements regarding character proportion, character height, sign finish and contrast
  • Must meet requirements for clearance


  • Private clubs
  • Religious organizations (includes places of worship)

Directional & Informational Signs

  • Not required to utilize tactile or Braille lettering
  • Must meet requirements regarding character proportion, character height, sign finish and contrast
  • Includes wall mounted signs indicating direction or informational signs about functional spaces

Exempt Signs

  • Building directories & menus
  • Seat & row designations (assembly areas)
  • Occupant names, company names, company logos
  • Building addresses
  • Temporary signs (signs used for 7 days or less)


  • Only sans serif fonts in medium or bold weight
  • Italics, scripts, oblique and other serif type styles do not meet standards
  • Tactile signs require all text to be uppercase
  • Visual only signs (directional & informational signs, overhead signs, directories, etc…) can use lowercase letters

Signs Size & Spacing

  • Text height must be a minimum of 5/8″ and maximum of 2″
  • Pictograms require a 6″ high area however no specific height is listed for the pictogram itself (somewhere around 4″ is common)
  • Braille requires a 3/8″ clearance on all sides


  • The text on tactile signs must include Grade II Braille directly below the text (Grade II Braille is not a letter-for-letter translation; it includes over 260 contractions)
  • Braille should be lowercase except the first letter of proper nouns, letters that are part of a room number (16C), initials, acronyms and before the first word of sentences.
  • See our ADA Reference Guide for specific Braille dot sizing and spacing requirements

For a detailed description of the ADA sign specifications see our ADA Reference Guide. For more information see the Department of Justice’s 2010 Standards for Accessible Design. ADA Signs Portland