Skip to content


Return to Blog »

Signs and Things – Types

In a previous article I provided an overview of the component pieces that go into signs. So the next question is, what components go into what kinds of signs? There are many sign types, each with their own requirements and exceptions. In order to understand some of the requirements the Components article should also be reviewed. Be aware that installation height requirements also differ by sign types.

So what are some of the categories for sign types?

  • Permanent Room signs are the portion of room or space identification signs that remain up permanently (defined as more than 7 days). It is not the name of the business or occupant but rather the room/suite number and/or room name. This portion should be in Braille and Raised Characters. If the sign is on the exterior and not near a door it is required to be Visual only.
  • Exterior Entrance signs are required to have a Symbol – the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA). ADA requires this at accessible entry doors only if not all doors are accessible whereas California requires it at all exterior doors. In both cases if a door is not accessible it should have a directional sign with an ISA to the nearest accessible door. Rooms and exterior spaces used by service personnel for maintenance are not required to have an ISA.
  • Exit Doors including exit passageways, discharge areas, and stairway floor IDs are required to have signs with Raised Characters and Braille. So be aware that doors with lit exit signs, should have an additional sign on the strike side of the door in Braille and Raised Characters – this is missing more often than not.
  • Informational and Directional signs are Visual only and also have the appropriate Symbol. This can include an ISA at an accessible checkout stand, or the International Symbol of Hearing Loss and notices at ticket windows in assembly areas with assisted listening systems, or Amusement Ride information about types of access and load/unload areas.
  • Restroom signs have Raised Characters, Braille, and preferably a Pictogram. An ISA is also required to be located at accessible restrooms if not all are accessible. California also mandates a door Symbol which is a circle, a triangle, or both, mounted on all restroom doors and this Symbol is to contrast with the door color.

There are a multitude of other sign types each with their separate requirements. These include but are not limited to; parking, elevators, phones, phones with TTY, Areas of Refuge, and ATMs. And there are some sign types which have no requirement at all such as building address signs, company names and logos, directories, seat/row designations in assembly buildings, and menus. It is helpful with wayfinding to have signs with Raised Characters and Braille at the separate tenant entry doors such as in a strip mall since this is similar to a suite number. And although there are no requirements for menus in restaurants, perhaps some thought should be given to providing a menu with enlarged text. In other words, you can go one step further to being more accessible than is actually required and many times this is at little cost.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.

© 2013 Janis Kent, Architect, CASp