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Helping Disabled People With ADA Signs

February 10, 2020

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public places to be compliant by posting ADA signs in specific areas to assist disabled individuals, particularly those in wheelchairs. Failure to meet these federal requirements can result in severe penalties. Here are important points to keep in mind about sign placements to ensure compliance.

Meeting Regulations

Companies that have been targeted the most by the Department of Justice for failure to comply with ADA regulations have included retail stores, hotels and restaurants. In 2014, the maximum civil penalty surged from $55,000 to $75,000 for violating Title III of the ADA. For businesses that don’t learn from the first offense, the second violation is now up to $150,000. These penalties are subject to change over time to adjust for inflation.

Clearly, it’s smart for public organizations to pay attention to these regulations designed to help individuals with disabilities and prevent discrimination against them. Vendors that think regulations only apply to ADA signs are vulnernable, since several other requirements must be met regarding doors, elevators, mirror height, service counter height, grab bars, toilet stalls, sinks, ramps, barriers and alternative purchasing methods. These laws are enforced by both the DOJ and local code inspectors.

Key Regulations for ADA Signs

It’s imperative for businesses to understand that federal ADA requirements supercede all state and local laws, as no public entity is “grandfathered” in from local codes prior to the nineties. Here are some, but not all, of the primary requirements, which can be found on the ADA website for a more comprehensive checklist.

  • certain signs must use Braille and tactile letters for the visually impaired
  • signs near doors should be mounted on the side of the latch or nearest adjacent wall
  • outward swinging doors require signs be mounted to the wall at least 18 inches away
  • projecting wall mounted signs need to be at least 27 inches above the floor
  • bottoms of overhead signs should be 80 inches above the floor
  • main exits need a star symbol with Braille

Not all signs posted within a facility need to be ADA compliant, such as building addresses and temporary signs used for seven days or less. Commercial facilities, such as warehouses or offices not open to the public, are exempt from certain requirements. The main theme running through the law is to acknowledge the needs of disabled individuals and to give them fair opportunities to participate in public settings.

Parking Lots and Public Places

The most important aspect of ADA requirements for parking lots is that identifiable handicap parking slots are available. Make sure the handicap sign is 60 inches from the bottom of the sign to the pavement. Public parks often need multiple signs and spaces for disabled drivers. Signs for handicap parking use the International Symbol of Access, which is a universal standard depicting the image of a wheelchair.

While the ADA doesn’t mention specifics on the definition of public places, it gives several examples, such as hospitals and theaters. To be on the safe side, consider your business to be open to the public if you allow customers at your establishment, then study Title III of the ADA. Be aware that there are different standards for properties built prior to the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design Guidelines.


Specific requirements for signs that communicate with handicapped individuals vary for different types of facilities from stores to amusement parks to recreational facilities. Further information about compliance information can be found by calling the ADA National Network at (800) 949-4232. If you are ready to order ADA compliant signs, contact Zumar at our Arizona, California or Washington locations.

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