4 Common ADA Mistakes

July 12, 2021

ADA Sign Mounting Guide

For business owners, signs can be a pretty big deal. Beyond getting customers inside your doors with exterior signage, you need signs inside, too, and those need to follow federal regulations. That’s right, American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance doesn’t just pertain to wheelchair access. It includes having the right types of signs for the blind and visually impaired.

Many people want to take the easy route and buy interior signs online that claim to be compliant. In reality, they are not. Here are some common mistakes you can find in many businesses.

Finish & Color

Regulations dictate a non-glare finish, and a high contrast ratio is needed for ADA signage, per SAD chapter §703.5.1.

This means your signs need to have a flat or matte finish, so it is easy for people to read. Have you ever tried to read a laminated menu in the sun? No one enjoys trying to read while being blinded. It’s the same concept.

Along the lines of legibility, high contrast between the sign color and its content is necessary. Reading white copy on a black background (or vice versa) is much easier to read than gray on gray.

Sans Serif Compliant; Serif Not


Most of the population cannot read braille so it’s not surprising that the majority of braille on signs are incorrect.

First off, there are 2 versions of braille – uncontracted (grade 1) and contracted (grade 2). Uncontracted braille is what it sounds like. Each letter in a word is “written” out in braille. It is outdated and no longer compliant.

On the other hand, contracted or Grade 2 braille uses a series of special signs to represent common words or groups of letters. It’s a kind of shorthand for the blind. It makes it quicker to read and saves much-needed space on surfaces. This version is now the standard in compliance.

Secondly, all the braille copy should be in lowercase except for pronouns, acronyms, beginning of a sentence, or letters as part of a number. Braille is often translated as all caps taking up more space and sounding aggressive. Stop yelling at me!

Disappointingly, both infractions on the same sign are a common occurrence.


First, the text and icons on the sign must be tactile. Specifically, they must be raised 1/32” off the sign.

Second, keep the fonts simple. ADA signs are not the place to be super creative. The signs can have personality, but legibility is paramount.

Fonts need to be sans serif in their standard form. This means skipping italics, extra bold or thin variations, and definitely no highly decorative fonts. There are even regulations for the stroke thickness and proportions for the letters.

4 Common ADA Mistakes


Where do you need these signs? They are needed in any public area. This means ADA signs, in general, are required at every public doorway. Federal regulations state that every permanent room or space in a public building needs to be identified with a sign. Public buildings are considered to be the following:

  • State, County & Local Government Facilities
  • Public Accommodations & Commercial Facilities, including:
    • All Stores
    • Restaurants & Bars
    • Retail Establishments
    • Service Establishments
    • Theaters & Museums
    • Places of Lodging
    • Recreational Facilities
    • Places of Education
    • Office Buildings
    • Factories, Warehouses & Manufacturing Plants
    • Public Areas of Apartment Buildings
    • Commercial Areas in Private Residences

Now that we know what buildings need ADA signs, let’s talk about where to put them. People love consistency but it is far more important for the visually impaired. The federal guidelines were created to provide a consistent system for the blind to navigate. That’s why there are specific areas to place your interior signage.

ADA Restroom Sign

Signs with raised copy and braille need to be mounted with these 3 main factors for standard single doors:

1) It needs to be mounted on the same side as the handle to avoid the reader getting hit by the door.

2) The raised copy must be within 48” & 60” of the finished floor to make it easy to find.

3) The sign should be centered within an 18” x 18” clear space from the side of the door.

That was a lot to take in but don’t be overwhelmed. Fill out the form below to download our cheat sheet to help you with your ADA questions.

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