Laser at work: ADA signage
By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Wednesday, February 24th, 2016
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. It is intended to prevent discrimination against and to require accommodation for disabled people. One area it addressed was the need for wayfinding signage that was functional for those with a disability.
The design, color and placement of wayfinding signs had been spelled out by the ADA and compliance was required by the law. Sign shops scrambled to understand ADA and start producing ADA-compliant signage.
Such was the case when John Hose made his first ADA signs. John had a full-service sign business and was doing a lot of architectural signs. There was an immediate need for compliant signage but interpretation of the law was sketchy and few products were available.
John began learning about the ADA and looking for practical production methods. The signs required raised lettering so that they could be read by touch as well as Braille lettering. The ADA states size, color and location requirements.
ADA and laser
John bought one of the first Epilog lasers in 1990 and started experimenting with it for ADA signage. Its precision made it an excellent tool for producing small signs meant to be seen up close.
“I was looking for a way to produce these signs profitably,” John says. “I’m a gadget guy, so the laser intrigued me. It was very precise. But early lasers did not handle vector files. Once they could, though, the laser was the ideal tool for what we were doing.”
One of the problems John was trying to solve was a durability issue. Since the lettering had to be raised at least 1/32 of an inch off the surface of the sign to allow for touch reading, one of the early solutions was to cut the lettering from a thick self-adhesive film. This was a problem in many applications since vandals could peel the lettering off the sign. John was doing a lot of wayfinding signs for school buildings and didn’t want students removing or rearranging letters.
“I needed a way to bond the letters to the sign face. After a lot of trial and error, we opted for a system that uses two layers of background material. The first is 1/8-in. acrylic substrate. We then laser-cut the lettering out of 1/32-in. acrylic in reverse, giving us a thin sheet with the lettering cut out. We also laser the holes to accept the little balls that create the Braille. We bond that layer to the substrate, and it becomes the sign face.