It's Time to Break Free of Compromise!
• Have you ever wondered why the ADA Sign Standards have separate rules for visual and tactile signs?
• Have you ever noticed that tactile sign rules don't include contrast or glare?
• It's time to recognize that one size DOES NOT FIT ALL when it comes to signs!
Why Do We Need Separate Visual and Tactile Signs?
If you can use your vision to read signs you may need a sign with LARGER, BOLDER text! You need colors that contrast many shades darker or lighter with the background. You need a finish that does not reflect into your eyes.
If you read and see text through your finger tips, you need that text to be SMALL, SLENDER, RAISED and ROUNDED or DOMED! Since you don't see the sign through your eyes, color, contrast and glare do not matter.
There's more! Reading by touch is much easier with simple shapes. Your fingers need to touch the entire shape, not trace it. You need a clear space between each character. That is why tactile character rules call for all uppercase letters, and no serifs (extensions on the ends of the strokes). It is why size is limited to no more than 2 inches in height. It is why a specific space is called out between two characters.
And maybe most important, the sign we read by touch must be within easy reach and it must be easy to find. To save space, bigger, bolder visual characters have given way to the smallest possible text, with color applied to the surface of raised characters so they do double duty. People with partial vision often find themselves practicly rubbing noses with signs in order to read them.
Covid 19 Throws Us a Curve. Signs Must be Cleaned!
Even after the rules were changed in 2010 to allow separate visual and tactile signs, most designers and sign companies have continued to use the same characters for both groups. But then Covid 19 came along, and suddenly, we realize that if signs are touchable, they may need to be cleaned and cleaned often!
Buildings that have many room signs will not only need a schedule that may include thorough cleaning of each room sign several times a day, but must be concerned about the effect that cleaning solutions have on the raised characters and braille dots. Some methods use water soluable products and some characters are adhered with adhesive that may deteriorate. Coatings may wear away. An important part of the ADA standards is that signs must be maintained. A braille sign missing dots is no longer a compliant sign. Words with some letters so degraded the sign is no longer recognizable are no longer compliant. And if the text is tiny, so partially sighted visitors must get very close or even be forced to read by touch rather than visually, we may expose them needlessly to infection.
Solve Two Problems With TWO Signs And ONE Message!
We don't have any choice about the tactile ID sign. It only "works" when it's touched. But there is no reason why it has to be touched by everyone. And, if we mold it in one piece from solid acrylic, impervious to liquids and especially easy to clean, with characters and braille that dry quickly when sprayed and cannot fall off, be pried off, or degrade over time, it will remain readable and compliant for many years even after numerous strenuous cleanings.
For the visual sign, we have many more choices. For one thing, we can mount it quite a bit higher on the wall or even on the door when space is limited, as long as we increase the size of the characters so it can still be read by many people who have partial vision. Contrast and glare are of paramount importance, as well. However there are so many sign colors that fall into the "very light" or "very dark" category that we are left with a huge number of beautiful colors –– and of course any decorative or reflective elements like metal trims we add don't have to meet the same standard as the message itself does. The same goes for font choices. We now can add historic non-decorative serif fonts to the mix, so traditional interiors don't end up with ultra-modern sans serif fonts.
Or, Put Both Versions of the Message on One Sign, But Separate And More Accessible
Of course we can still put both versions of the message on one sign if that provides the best solution for installation. The versions will be separate, although the visual message will be still need to be cleaned often since it will be in touching range. However, no matter whether it's one sign plaque or two, the use of clear acrylic means that all text, color and decorative elements can be added to the second surface providing smooth easy to clean surfaces and that hold up well to increased sanitation regimes.