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Braille Signs: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Braille?

A.

Braille is a reading and writing system designed for blind and visually impaired people to enable them to read. This tactile system employs raised dots to represent the letters of the alphabet, symbols, and numerals. The visually impaired can then read what’s written by feeling these raised characters with their fingertips. 

Braille symbols comprise cells consisting of six raised dots. These dots are arranged in two parallel columns of three dots each. One or more of these braille cell dots make 63 different combinations.

Q. What are ADA signs?

A.

ADA signs are distinct signs used to identify specific building rooms, spaces, facilities, etc., primarily in public access buildings and areas. Designed according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these signs make public buildings more accessible. ADA signs often feature braille text and other elements such as the ADA handicap symbol to make access easier for people with disabilities. ADA signs have different applications including parking, restrooms, stairs, exit-entrances, etc.

You may find more information on the ADA website.

Q. Are all businesses required to comply with ADA?

A.

According to the ADA Titles I, II, and III, the Act applies to all facilities with employees, clients, and/or customers. This includes state and local government facilities as well as private places of public accommodation and commercial facilities such as stores, schools, restaurants, hotels, retail establishments, recreation facilities, workplaces, banks, manufacturing plants, warehouses, public areas of residential establishments, and more. 

You may find more detailed information in the actual text of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

Q. What are the ADA requirements for Braille?

A.

The 2010 ADA Standards For Accessible Design provides braille requirements in section 703.3. These require that braille characters have a domed or rounded shape and be positioned below the corresponding text and below the entire text for multi-line text. Information about using uppercase braille letters, spacing, and dimensions is also detailed in the accessible design standard, along with relevant illustrations.

Q. Is it mandatory for all ADA signs to have Braille?

A.

No, not all ADA signs require braille. These include signs that provide direction or information as well as signs that are temporary or changeable. An example of such signs are ADA parking signs that do not display the sign text in braille, instead they follow other ADA guidelines like ISA symbol, color, etc.

Q. Is there a difference between ADA braille and California braille?

A.

The use of California braille ensures compliance with the state requirements and satisfies the Federal regulations as well. The two standards differ only in their braille dot spacing guidelines. Where ADA permits a range of spacing between dots in the same cell as well as dots in adjacent cells, California braille requires that the distance between two dots in the same braille cell and the distance between corresponding dots in adjacent braille cells to be the maximum values listed in the ADA standard. 

Please note that the California standard is valid and acceptable nationwide.

Q. What is Grade 2 Braille? Are there more grades?

A.

There are three grades of braille — Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3. Grade 1 Braille is usually for people who have just been introduced to braille and are in the learning phase. Here, the words are spelled out letter by letter. 

The most common type of braille, Grade 2 Braille uses letters, numbers, punctuation, and contractions. The use of contractions helps people read and write faster. This grade is mostly preferred for all printed materials such as books, documents, signage, and more.

Grade 3 Braille is a type of shorthand and is not standardized. This is used primarily for convenience and is not understood by every Braille reader.

Q. Where are ADA braille signs required?

A.

ADA braille signs are required for permanent spaces/areas in a building. The word permanent here implies that such spaces/areas will serve the same function for more than seven days, such as exam rooms, conference rooms, storage and changing rooms, break rooms, restrooms, kitchens, and more. This also includes spaces like fire exits, stairways, etc., that are associated with safety. Any other temporary areas or facilities may be excused. 


You may find more detailed information about this in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

Q. How should ADA braille signs be mounted?

A.
ADA braille signs should be mounted on the latch side of the door to the room being identified, no lower than 48 inches from the floor and no higher than 60 inches from the floor. When it is not possible to mount the sign in the specified location, it may be installed on the nearest adjacent wall such that it is clearly visible. You should not install these signs directly on a door.
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