Accessibility Signage Best Practices​

Guidelines for Accessible signage

  • Signs should be accessible to all users of the building or facility, including new braille learners, deafblind and low-vision people, and those with additional learning difficulties.
  • The most accessible sign is one which contains braille, raised print and raised pictograms where appropriate (for example, male and female washrooms). Always accompany any pictogram with print and braille text. Some readers will not know what the pictogram means without accompanying text.
  • Where possible, braille, print and pictograms should be included on the same sign. Having multiple formats on one sign helps some readers clarify or confirm the meaning and strengthens the sign’s message.
  • The braille should convey the same information as the print.
  • The braille should be in the same language(s) as the print.
  • When signage includes both English and French text, there should be both English and French braille. A side-by-side layout of English and French raised text and braille is suggested.
  • Do not convey information solely through colour or images. Provide information in raised print and braille as well. Make signs clear and unambiguous. Keep text short and simple.

  • Place signs at a consistent height and location around a building or facility.
  • Place tactile signage where it can be reached easily without obstruction.
  • Place signs logically and as close as possible to the object they are indicating. (e.g. place “push” near the door opening for easy location).

Note: The illustrations are not drawn to scale.

  • Place signs at the entry point to corridors.
  • In general, where a single sign contains both print and braille, place signs at a height of 1400-1600mm from floor level to the bottom of the sign. This is based on the optimum viewing height for people standing up and in wheelchairs.
  • If braille is placed on a separate sign, this can be lowered to 1350mm from the finished floor to the bottom of the sign plate.
  • Always place separate braille sign plates in a consistent location relative to the print sign.
  • For playgrounds, elementary schools, or other facilities where the main population is likely to be children, place the signs between 900-1200mm from floor level to the bottom of the sign plate.
  • Avoid suspended signs – they are very difficult to locate and too high to be read by a low-vision person.
  • Avoid protruding signs or sandwich boards – they are a safety hazard.
  • If doors are generally left open (e.g. office doors), place the sign on the wall or glass, either latch-side or hinge-side, as near to the door as possible. Choose whichever side would be more logical and usable, and be consistent throughout the building.

  • If doors are generally left closed (e.g. hotel room or washroom doors), place the sign on the door itself. Braille should be placed directly underneath pictograms or print numbers if they exist. Always include braille and print text as well as the pictogram. A pictogram alone is not enough.

  • For elevator controls, place braille to the immediate left of the buttons. 

 

 

 

 

  • Place tactile elevator floor indicators on the leading edge of the entrance door or landing frame, at a height of 1350mm from the ground.
  • Be consistent around your entire facility to ensure all users can easily locate your signage.
  • Ensure that the sign visually contrasts with its background so that it can be located more easily by low-vision people. For example, on a light-coloured wall, use a sign with a dark background and light-coloured print. If a sign must be placed on a similar-coloured wall, use a thick border of contrasting colour to assist with location.
  • For signs placed on glass, ensure that there is enough colour contrast between the sign and its background. A thick border of contrasting colour surrounding the sign may be helpful.
  • Avoid placing signs on backgrounds which contain a lot of visual clutter – this can include general information such as posters, pictures and pamphlets that do not communicate orientation information.
  • Ensure the sign is in an area with good lighting. Avoid creating shadows on areas of the sign. Task lighting can assist with location of the sign in poorly lit areas.
  • Reflective glare will make the sign more difficult to read. Use non-reflective surfaces and ensure that lighting does not create glare on the sign.
  • All text and braille on a sign should be left-aligned and set horizontally.
  • Where print and braille appear on the same sign plate, place braille at least 9.5 mm below the corresponding print.
  • Use simple, consistent and logical layout.
  • Avoid complicated images – keep the design simple with a plain background. Avoid too much information on one sign.

Braille Signage

  • Braille dots should have a domed or rounded shape – make sure they are not pointy or flat.
  • The spherical radius of each dot should be 0.75-0.80mm. The base diameter of each dot should be 1.5-1.6mm.
  • Each dot should have a height of 0.6-0.9mm.
  • Horizontal and vertical distance between two dots in the same cell should be 2.3-2.5mm.
  • Distance between corresponding dots in adjacent cells should be 6.1-7.6mm.
  • Distance between corresponding dots from one cell to the cell below should be 10-10.2mm.
  • The standard for braille in Canada is Unified English Braille.
  • For braille signs of 10 words or fewer, use uncontracted braille.
  • For French text, use uncontracted braille.
  • For floor directories, use uncontracted braille.
  • For signs of greater than 10 words, use contracted braille only if the sign consists of sentences such as emergency evacuation instructions. Ensure contracted braille follows Unified English Braille rules.
  • Generally, do not use capital letters in braille signs, except for emergency instructions which comprise sentences.
  • If text is multi-lined, place all the braille a minimum of 9.5 mm below the entire raised print text.
  • For multi-lined braille text, a semi-circular braille indicator may be horizontally aligned with and placed directly before the first braille character. This indicator is not essential.

Clear, Raised Print Signage

  • The size, type and layout of lettering on signs must be clearly legible.
  • Use a clear, simple sans serif typeface with uniform stroke width, wide horizontal proportions and distinct letter forms, including prominent ascenders and descenders and open counterforms. Some examples of suitable typefaces are Arial, Futura, Gill Sans, Helvetica, Lucinda Sans, and Trebuchet.
  • Avoid using italics, stylized print, underlining and block capitals.
  • Lettering should be in initial upper case. This helps with letter and word recognition.
  • Always ensure the sign background contrasts with the print. Clear colour combinations include black text on a white background, white on black, yellow on black or black on yellow.
  • Do not print information over pictures or patterns.
  • Characters and their background should be non-reflective.
  • For non-tactile print, the size of the text should be related to the distance at which the information is to be viewed. Letters should have a minimum height of 15mm. If signs will be viewed from more than 3m away, the text should have a height of 5mm for each metre of viewing distance. For example, if a sign is designed to be viewed from a 5m distance, text should have a height of 25mm.
  • Raised letters should have soft-shouldered edges.
  • Letters should be raised from the surface of the sign plate by at least 1mm.
  • Letter height should be 15-50mm, that is approximately 48-144pt.
  • Minimum spacing between letters should be 2mm.
  • Minimum spacing between words should be 10mm.
  • Letter stroke thickness should be 2-7mm.
  • Do not use engraved print letters. These can be very difficult to read by touch.
  • Raised borders and elements should be 10mm minimum from tactile characters.

Pictograms

  • When using pictograms for features like exits or male/female washrooms, use internationally recognized symbols.
  • Make sure pictograms are always accompanied by raised print and braille. The pictogram is not sufficient on its own – some people will not know what the picture means.
  • Raised arrows can be used to indicate direction. These should appear either at the beginning of a line of text or directly after the text label. Avoid large spaces between arrows and their labels. Where braille is on a separate sign plate, a small raised arrow should be horizontally aligned with the braille, either directly before or after the braille text.
  • Always ensure the sign background contrasts with the pictogram. Clear colour combinations include black text on a white background, white on black, yellow on black or black on yellow.
  • Raised pictograms should have soft-shouldered edges, and should be raised from the surface of the sign plate by 1mm.

French

  • We encourage the use of French braille on signage alongside English braille.
  • Use uncontracted braille in all instances.
  • Use the French language signs for accented letters in braille. For example, in the word Conférence, the “e” with the accute accent would be written as dots 123456. The symbol should look like this =
  • Use the universal system of digits. The numeric indicator is written as dots 3456 and is placed in front of the letters a-j. For example, 2016 looks like this #bjaf
  • Where a sign applies equally to both English and French (i.e. a nameplate with just a person’s name on it), it is suggested that letters be brailled unaccented for universal recognition.
  • Please follow all other guidelines regarding placement, spacing and capitalization.

Sample Words

  • conférence
  • conf=rence
  • arrêter
  • arr>ter

Sources:

Braille Literacy Canada
c/o CNIB
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario  M4G 3E8

Did You Know?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) aims to make Ontario accessible by 2025 through the development, implementation, and enforcement of standards relating to 5 areas: customer service, employment, information and communications, transportation, and the built environment (buildings and outdoor spaces).

The standards goal is to ensure that all Ontarians can take part in everyday activities — working, shopping, taking public transit, using the Internet, attending sporting and cultural events, and enjoying parks and other public spaces.

Our team is ready to help you navigate the intricacies of AODA compliant signage, through design, proofing, production, and installation.