Articles on this Page :
1) Accessible Sign Design
Anatomy of an H. Toji sign, showing accessibility features
2) Font & Typeface FAQ
Font selection is one of the most misunderstood aspects of sign design. Here are a few things you need to know.
3) California Sign Codes
Information about California's own Title 24 signage codes, which are more strict than federal guidelines

Accessible Sign Design

We put our expertise and experience to use in our signs. And like anything, the difference is in the details:

  1. Clear acrylic substrate with a non-glare finish for maximum readability. Durable, vandal-resistant subsurface color.
  2. Visual-only text is subsurface for durability and uses upper and lower case letters.
  3. Tactile text has a beveled edge or half-round profile for easier reading, and to allow the base to be bold enough for easy visual reading.
  4. Correct contracted (grade-2) braille, domed or rounded for easy reading. We exclusively use California braille spacing which is legal in all 50 states.
  5. Spacing between tactile characters, braille and all other raised elements complies with federal and California standards.


California Sign Codes (2013)

California (Title 24) Braille
California has long had its own, unique standard for braille.
With the passage of the 2010 ADA Design Standards all states must follow a range of standards. California braille standards fall within those ranges.Hence CA-braille is legal in all 50 states, while not all federally compliant braille is legal in California.
Here, braille dots within cells must be .10 inch apart, measured from the centers. Horizontal cell spacing must be .30 inch, measured between corresponding braille dots in adjacent cells. Vertical cell spacing must be between .395" and .40", measured between corresponding braille dots in stacked lines of braille. Braille dots themselves must be between .025 and .037 inches high with a base diameter between .059" and .063".

Dots must be rounded or domed, be in a horizontal format, and be located below the corresponding text. The space between the raised text and the braille must be between 3/8 inch minimum and 1/2 inch, maximum.


CA Geometric Door Signs (2013)

California requires, in addition to Braille and raised character restroom identification signs installed adjacent to the doors, large geometric signs on the doors of restrooms. A 12 inch diameter circle stands for the women's or girl's restroom. A 12 inch equilateral triangle stands for the men's or boy's restroom. A triangle placed on top of and within a 12 inch diameter circle stands for a unisex restroom. All geometric symbols must be 1/4 inch thick, and must contrast with the door. and the triangle on top of a circle must contrast with the circle. The symbols can be left blank, but they are an appropriate place to put the International Symbol of Accessibility, or wheelchair symbol, when the restrooms they identify are accessible.
Mounting height for all geometric door symbols is 58" minimum to 60" maximum (measured at the vertical center of the sign)



Font & Typeface FAQ

What is a font, type face, or typestyle?

The term "font" today refers to an alphabet of letter shapes of the same style. Historically, it included only one size set of letters, but since most typesetting is done on computers today, the size of a font is easily changeable, and the term has come to refer to the style, regardless of the size of the letters. The terms "typeface" or "typestyle" usually mean the same thing today. If you want to learn more about these terms, and other terms used to describe letters, there is an excellent glossary of typographical terms with examples available on Microsoft's website.

What does "sans serif" mean?

Serifs are decorative points or strokes on letters in some fonts. "Sans serif" simply means that a font's design does not include serifs. Because a serif is an embellishment to a letter's shape and not an integral part of the letter, it can be eliminated and leave the letter intact.

Why use sans serif fonts for tactile signs?

Tactile reading is slow and laborious under the best of circumstances. Serifs may look nice on a letter, but the extra points on the shape are just extraneous information to a tactile reader. Adding extra parts onto a letter's shape can also make letters run together, which can make tactile reading all but impossible.

Consider this example:

Both lines of text are spaced properly for tactile reading. Notice how the bottom line of serif characters had to be spaced widely, particularly between the R and the A. This extra space makes the word hard to read by sight, and the serifs make it hard to read by touch.

Compare this to the top line. Without serifs, the letters "sit" next to each other better visually, while keeping their tactile readability. While not perfect, it is still much more readable by either means.

So why not use one "standard" font for all tactile signs?

You certainly could, but font selection is a crucial part of design. Locking yourself into one font, even one that's "perfect" for tactile reading, closes a lot of possible design doors. There are many fonts that read well by touch; there is no need to limit yourself to just one.

Can I use lowercase letters?

Not for tactile letters. There are too many variations in shape among lowercase letters, even in sans serif fonts. Uppercase letters have more easily recognizable shapes, even with slight variations between fonts. This is why the ADA guidelines call for only uppercase tactile letters.

What weight of font should I use for tactile letters?

For most typestyles, to meet the ADA guidelines, a "medium" or "semi-bold" weight will give you the proper stroke-to-height ratio. Keep in mind that when engraving the letters, most fonts will lose a little weight, and when embossing or etching the letters, most fonts will gain a little weight. Check the finished product, not the original artwork, to make sure it complies.

If the signs have Braille, why do they need tactile letters too?

Braille is the most efficient way of reading by touch. However, if someone becomes blind later in life, which is more common than being born without sight, that person may never learn Braille. He or she would probably, however, already know the shapes of basic uppercase letters, and can distinguish them by touch.



Typestyles, Character and Stroke Proportions and spacing for Tactile Characters (2013)

Although the original ADAAG only mentions proportions for visual characters and allows so-called "simple serifs" for tactile characters, California has more stringent requirements. Now, with the passage of the 2010 ADA/ABA, the federal requirements are similar to California's.

The 2010 ADA/ABA requires tactile characters to have a maximum stroke width, measured at the top surface of the character, of 15 percent. Measure character stroke width and height with the uppercase character "I." California has the same requirement.

New federal character widths are from 55 percent minimum to 110 percent maximum of character height. California has a more stringent minimum for character width of 60 percent. To measure, the widest part of an uppercase letter "O" should be used. If the characters used for measurement fall within the parameters of the code, the entire font is presumed to be compliant.

The 2010 ADA/ABA now follows California and ANSI, and allows sans serif typefaces only for tactile characters. The most readable tactile character is sans serif, uppercase, with the character width as close to 110 percent of the height as possible, and with a stroke that is wider at the base and beveled or rounded to no more than 15 percent of height at the top surface.

The 2010 ADA/ABA requires something new: spacing between characters. In tactile signs, each character in the same word must have a minimum of 1/8 inch space between the two closest points, measured at the top surface of the characters. When characters are both visual and tactile, beveled or rounded characters can have as little as 1/16 inch between the character bases.



Combined California & Federal Rules (Most Stringent):