Difference Between Tactile Signage and Braille Signage
For able-bodied individuals who read signs with ease on a daily basis, the visibility and readability of signage is likely an afterthought. Before 1990, design elements like tactile letters and braille were non-existent. Today, they make signage more accessible to individuals who are visually impaired. What’s more, they are required by law through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
But what is the difference between tactile and braille signage? They are different in several ways, but both will make your business inclusive to every customer and passerby.
What Is A Tactile Sign?
By definition, tactile signage is read (or more-easily read) by physically touching a sign’s letters or symbols. They are primarily provided for individuals who have suffered from visual impairment or vision loss later in life and would recognize alphabetical letters upon touching them.
Essentially, tactile signs have 3D letters and are used to label signs with pictograms. To better picture a tactile sign, think of a set of plastic, alphabet magnets that children or their parents arrange on the kitchen refrigerator to spell words. Just like the alphabet magnet letters on the refrigerator, tactile letters and symbols are raised on the surface of ADA signage.
Tactile Signs & ADA Standards
Tactile text is often used to describe pictograms that label or identify different spaces, such as a “NO SMOKING” area. ADA standards also require that tactile signs be placed by any exit doors, including passageways and exit stairways; the universally recognized “STAIRS” sign is represented by an ascending-descending stairway, and the “EXIT” sign is represented by a human figure running toward a door.
Other characteristics that make signage tactile and ADA-compliant include:
- All-uppercase letters
- Sans-serif fonts (Typefaces that do not have extending features) **Exceptions to this.
- ⅛-inch spacing minimum between characters
- Smooth edges
- Easy denotable accessibility symbols
- Non-glare finish
What Is A Braille Sign?
Braille is a form of tactile writing learned and used by the visually impaired, including individuals who are blind, deafblind, or who have low vision. The raised pattern of dots represent different characters and can be read with the eyes, as well. Braille is also used by many cultures and languages, providing literacy for people who are not English-speaking.
Braille Signs & ADA Requirements
Braille is used extensively on ADA-compliant signage and must be Grade 2 braille, specifically. Also known as “contracted braille,” Grade 2 braille is the most commonly used braille. It is different from Grade 1 braille in the fact that it uses contractions, which increases reading speed.
To be considered ADA-compliant signage, braille signage requires:
- Braille uppercase letters are only to be used before the first word of sentences, proper nouns and names, individual letters of the alphabet, initials, and acronyms
- Domed- or rounded-shaped braille
- Braille to be positioned below corresponding text
- Spacing of at least ⅜ inches from any other tactile characters, raised borders, or other element
- Braille to be scaled-to-size
Braille also is required to be placed on all of the following: restrooms, floor designations, car designations, and elevator buttons.