How to Ensure Hotel Signage is ADA Compliant

CHATTANOOGA, TN—At a hotel, it is the sign that helps show guests the way. Whether it is illuminated or embossed with raised braille, these fixtures play an important role in removing barriers for people with disabilities and enhancing the guest experience. However, navigating the intricacies of ADA sign regulations can be tricky and requires a closer look at the signage for a property to ensure accuracy and compliance.

“There are a lot of regulations involved with ADA signage and it’s hard to keep up with it all. We pride ourselves in staying on top of the game so our customers don’t have to worry about it,” said Hank McMahon, president, Intersign Corporation and

For more than 25 years, McMahon’s company has been producing ADA-compliant hotel signage and is a provider of brand signage for several hotel chains including Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Best Western, La Quinta and others, as well as independent hotels. McMahon noted that a change to the ADA guidelines a few years ago served as the catalyst for enhancements to the product they provide to hotel clients.

“In 2010, when the Department of Justice released their most recent version of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we were forced to take a hard look at our products. Each one of our signs went through a rigorous review to make sure we were adhering to the new guidelines,” said McMahon. “Since then, our system for code compliancy has evolved to meet the new challenges of conforming not only to ADA requirements, but in marrying those requirements with ones put forth by the International Code Council and National Fire Protection Association. To manage the ever-changing requirements, we now have a regulation compliance staff that is dedicated to reading up on the latest guidelines so our customers can be sure their signs are compliant when they order from us.”

So, what does it take to meet the standard? Well, step one is to make sure the signs are compliant in the first place, according to McMahon. “Be sure to correct font types, raised text for signs identifying permanent rooms and spaces, domed Grade 2 braille, proper color contrast (light text on dark signs and vice-versa) and proper installation—all of those things are of utmost importance. Another thing to consider is durability. You don’t want signs that are easily worn-down or fall apart.”

McMahon quipped he could write a book on the common mistakes occurring in signage, ranging from improper installation to signs in the wrong locations, such as stairway identification signs where they shouldn’t be, informational signs instead of room signs, braille on directionals.

“The best thing that you can do is be proactive and find a sign company that knows their stuff in terms of ADA guidelines and regulations and offers product guarantees,” he said. “Many hotel signage providers say they offer ADA-compliance guarantees, but very few offer no-cost replacement. With the right signage provider who backs their signs with great guarantees, you won’t have to worry about ADA compliance—you’ll know your signs are compliant right from the start.”

In addition, he recommended consulting with an expert every so often to ensure the signs are up-to-date and compliant for the safety and comfort of guests. “If your text is worn or hard to read… if your braille has chipped off or is not domed Grade 2 braille, it’s time to replace your signs. We have an ADA compliance staff on hand that can answer any compliance questions.”

Intersign continuously researches design trends to bring clients new and different designs, adding several new lines a year. This year, the company added 20 colors to its standard palette and now has more than 80 standard shades. The company is also able to work directly with hoteliers on custom styles.

“In terms of compliance, we’re always learning and adding signs to our styles that comply with both national, city and state guidelines. We recently added signs that comply with New York City, Seattle and California guidelines, as well as gender-neutral signage that complies with several city- and state-level regulations across the country. We also work closely with hotel brands to ensure our signage complies with the latest brand standards,” he said. “We want our customers to know that when they buy from us, they are getting the most compliant signage available.”