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ADA restroom signage requirements

The identification of restrooms in public, commercial and government spaces is an important component of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Increasingly, compliance with the new standards is a big concern for property owners and managers. The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design have been adopted in order to bring the Act’s 1990 guidelines into alignment with the agency’s 2004 interim recommendations, known as the ADAAG (ADA Accessibility Guidelines).

Wondering if your facility is compliant? A lot will depend on what type of facility you have and when it was constructed. Newer buildings are required to be in full compliance with the 2010 Standards, while older facilities may just need updates depending on which barriers to access need to be removed. Here is a quick breakdown of the ADA's general communication requirements relating to signage:

Raised characters
Raised characters, which are designed to be read by touch, should be used according to these specifications:

  • They should not have sharp or abrasive edges.

  • They should be raised at least 1/32 of an inch from the background.

  • The characters should be uppercase, sans-serif.

  • An italic, script, or decorative font should not be used.

  • The font selected should have these proportions:

    • The width of the uppercase "O" is at least 55 percent and no more than 110 percent the height of the uppercase "I."

    • Based on the height of the uppercase "I," the height should be at least 5/8 inch and no more than 2 inches.

    • The thickness of the uppercase "I" should equal no more than 15 percent of the character's height.

    • Spacing between characters with "rectangular cross sections" should be at least 1/8 inch, and no more than four times the stroke width.

    • Spacing between characters that do not have “rectangular cross sections” should be at least 1/16 inch and no more than four times the width of the character stroke at the base of the cross sections. At the top of the cross sections, the spacing should be at least 1/8 inch and no more than four times the width of the character stroke.

  • Characters should be at least 3/8 inch away from borders or other decorative elements.

  • Spacing between lines of raised characters should be at least 135 percent of the height of the uppercase characters, and no more than 170 percent.
Braille
  • Grade 2 braille should also be used and placed below the corresponding text – with at least 3/8 inch separation.

  • Braille dots should be 1.5 to 1.6 mm wide at the base, with 2.3 to 2.5 mm between dots in the same cell (measured from the center of each), and with 6.1 mm to 7.6 mm between cells.

  • Rows of cells should be 10 mm to 10.2 mm from the row above and below.

  • Dots should be raised 0.6 mm to 0.9 mm.
Pictograms
  • Pictograms, including the symbols for male, female and wheelchair accessible, should be used in conjunction with text and braille below.
Placement
  • Signs should be placed so that the baseline of the lowest tactile character is at least 48 inches from the floor or ground surface, and so that the baseline of the highest character is not more than 60 inches from the ground level.
  • Signage should be mounted on the latch side of the door.
In addition, all letters and symbols should have a non-glare finish, and should contrast with the background.

The relevant parts of the 2010 Standards relating to toilet and bathing room requirements, depending on your situation, will be:

213. Toilet Facilities and Bathing Facilities (in Scoping Requirements)

603. Toilet and Bathing Rooms (in Plumbing Elements and Facilities)

ADA Restroom Signs Note this sign's ADA-compliant high-contrast colors and Grade 2 braille.
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