What Makes a Sign ADA Compliant?

In today's world, accessibility is more than just a consideration—it's a necessity. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has set forth stringent guidelines to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to public spaces. One crucial aspect of this is signage. But what exactly makes a sign ADA compliant? Let’s break down the key components.

Text and Font Requirements

Legibility is Key: ADA-compliant signs must use sans-serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana. These fonts are easy to read and help ensure that the text is clear and unambiguous.

Size Matters: The character height must be between 5/8 inch and 2 inches, depending on the sign’s mounting height. This ensures that text is readable from a distance.

Contrast: There must be a high contrast between the text and the background. Light-colored text on a dark background or vice versa helps make the text stand out and be easily readable.

Braille and Tactile Elements

Braille: All ADA signs must include Grade II Braille. This form of Braille is a shorthand version, making it quicker to read.

Tactile Text: In addition to Braille, the text should be tactile, meaning it is raised so that it can be felt by touch. The tactile characters should be raised at least 1/32 inch from the sign's surface.

Pictograms Universal Symbols: When pictograms (symbols) are used, they must be at least 6 inches tall. These should be accompanied by a text description placed directly below the pictogram.

Clear Space: There must be a clear space of at least 3/8 inch around the pictogram to ensure it is easily distinguishable from other elements on the sign.

Finish and Glare

Non-Glare Surface: The surface of ADA signs must be non-glare. This helps individuals with visual impairments to read the signs more easily, as it reduces reflection and glare from lighting.

Diagram showing ADA sign requirements

Sign Placement

Mounting Height: For wall-mounted signs, the baseline of the lowest tactile character should be mounted between 48 inches and 60 inches from the ground. This ensures that the sign is within reach of most individuals, including those in wheelchairs.

Illustration showing the appropriate mounting height for ADA signage

Proximity to the Point of Need: Signs should be placed as close as possible to the relevant area or object to which they refer. For example, a restroom sign should be on the latch side of the door, not on the door itself.

Illustration showing the appropriate height for mounting projecting signage

Projecting Signs: Projecting signs should extend 4 inches or less from the wall and be installed at least 27 inches above the ground.

Mounting Location

Illustration showing the appropriate mounting location for ADA signage next to a single panel door.
Single Door: Signs should be mounted on the latch side of the door.
Illustration showing the appropriate mounting location for ADA signage on a double door with one active leaf.
Double Door with One Active Leaf: Signs should be mounted on the inactive leaf.


Illustration showing the appropriate mounting location for ADA signage for a double door with two active leaves.
Double Door with Two Active Leaves: Signs should be mounted to the right of the right-hand door.
Illustration depicting the appropriate mounting location for ADA signage for a single door with inward swing.
Inward Swing: Signs may be mounted directly to the door if the following criteria are met: 
Illustration of requirements for inward swinging doors

1. The door closes automatically.
2. Mounted on the push side.
3. There is no “hold open” device.

Illustration showing the appropriate mounting location for ADA signage for a single door with outward swing.
Outward Swing: Signs should be mounted centered with tactile characters with 18" x 18" clear floor space beyond arc of the door swing. *If there is no room for the sign to be mounted next to the door, the sign may be mounted on the nearest adjacent wall.
Illustration showing the appropriate space required near a door with an outward swing.

Compliance with Local Codes

Local Adaptations: While the ADA provides federal guidelines, it’s essential to check for any additional local regulations. Some states or municipalities may have stricter requirements or additional standards for compliance.


Upkeep: Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure that signs remain compliant. Over time, wear and tear can affect the readability of text and Braille, so periodic checks and replacements are necessary.

Creating ADA-compliant signage is not just about following rules—it's about fostering an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can navigate and access public spaces with ease. At Harper Laine, we understand the importance of accessibility and are dedicated to providing high-quality, ADA-compliant signage. We offer several predesigned ADA-compliant collections of signs, making it easy for you to find the perfect solutions for your needs.

By choosing Harper Laine, you ensure that your signage meets all necessary standards, contributing to a more inclusive society. Whether you’re updating existing signs or installing new ones, our predesigned collections and commitment to quality will help you achieve full compliance with ease.

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