AODA Guidelines: How to Make Your Signs Accessible

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AODA Guidelines: How to Make Your Signs Accessible

According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, there are around 1.5 million Canadians who identify themselves as having lost their sight. There is also an estimated 5.59 million people with an eye disease that could eventually lead to sight loss in the future.

As a business, it is your responsibility to make it as easy as possible for those with vision impairments to safely and easily find their way through your location. Although Canada doesn’t actually have federal legislation with a nationally appropriate set of guidelines for accessible signage, the Canadian Human Rights Act does require that public spaces are accessible to everyone.

Provinces, municipalities, agencies, and companies can choose how to provide accessible signage, so it is helpful to have some guidelines and recommended best practices when designing and placing signage for your location. Here are the basics, according to the AODA.

The Canadian Standard Association Guidelines

Barrier-Free design recommendations from the Canadian Standard Association, a non-profit group trying to establish standards across the country, look to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) for guidance.

It was ratified by the Canadian government in 2010 and does include braille and tactile signage specifically. This article requires that signage in braille be posted in all public spaces, as well as to provide forms that are easy to read and understand.

The Law

In general, basic requirements are dictating you let the public and your employees know they can request written information and other forms of communication that will make the information more accessible. This should be posted on your website and other places people will see it, such as your promotional materials.

You can also have a sign specifically outlining how to reach you, but this would have to be accessible signage. You can then work with people with disabilities to find the best communication supports to meet their needs.

Although you don’t have to have the formats readily available, you will be expected to provide accessible information in a timely manner. This information must be available at no cost.

There are some exceptions to the rules, including when:

  • You can’t technically to convert a document to an accessible format
  • You are not the primary provider of the information
  • You don’t control the information

Braille and Raised Letter

The only way people who may be blind, low-vision or deafblind can access your building signage is by touch or high contrast. Often this information is vital such as emergency exits. By using braille, the signage can represent letters of the alphabet using dots in combinations which those with vision impairments can read. This tactile system is recognized by the majority of those living with blindness over an extended period of time.

It is considered the most efficient way to share information; however, those who have suffered vision challenges recently will not be able to read braille. In this case, raised print can be a useful alternative. A combination of braille plus raised, high-contrast print is therefore recommended.

Where are signs needed?

Accessible signs should be placed wherever signs would generally be hung. In general, signs are either designed to communicate information, provide directions, or identify locations. This would include:

  • Washrooms/showers
  • Elevators
  • Stair landing floor numbers
  • Office and hotel room plates
  • Emergency doors/exits
  • Emergency evacuation instructions
  • Cautionary signage
  • Facility directories
  • Free telephones in public places
  • Bus stop and train platforms to indicate numbers
  • Gathering places
  • Operating instructions

Signage Guidelines

In Canada, the braille used is Unified English Braille. The following guidelines will provide readable signage to everyone with sight issues including blind, deafblind and low-vision people:

1. Braille signage

  • Use a domed or rounded shape for braille dots.
  • Each dot should be 0.75-0.80mm with a base diameter of 1.5-1.6mm and a height of 0.6-0.9mm.
  • Horizontal and vertical distance should be 2.3-2.5mm in the same cell and 6.1- 7.6mm in adjacent cells.
  • Distance between corresponding dots from one cell to the cell below should be 10-10.2mm.
  • Uncontracted braille is used for signs of 10 words or less, French text and floor directories.
  • Use contracted braille for signs with 10 or more words, but only if the sign consists of sentences.
  • Avoid capital letters in braille signs, except for emergency instructions where sentences are used.
  • For multi-line text, place all braille a minimum of 9.5 mm below the entire raised print text.
  • For multi-line braille text, you can choose to use a semi-circular braille indicator horizontally aligned with and placed directly before the first braille character.

2. Clear, raised print signage

  • The size, type and layout must be legible.
  • Use sans serif typefaces such as Arial, Futura, Gill Sans, Helvetica, Lucinda Sans, and Trebuchet and avoid stylized print including italics and block capitals.
  • Use initial upper case to assist with letter and word recognition.
  • Use contrasting colours for letters and the background to make the words stand out.
  • Do not use pictures or patterns in the background directly behind the letters.
  • Use non-reflective characters and backgrounds.
  • Consider the distance from which the sign will be read and ensure letters have a minimum height of 15mm, and for signs over 3m away, text should be 5mm for each metre of viewing distance.
  • Use soft-shouldered edges for raised letters.
  • Letters should be raised by at least 1mm from the plate and be about 48-144pt in font size.
  • Use 2mm for minimum spacing between letters and 10mm between words.
  • Use 2 to 7mm for letter stroke thickness.
  • Never use engraved print letters.
  • Raised borders and elements should be 10mm minimum from tactile characters.

By making an effort to create a welcoming facility for everybody, you are creating an inclusive environment. You will create a safer environment that allows people to exit your location in case of emergency, reducing the risk of injury or death, and it will make it easier for all visitors to find their way around the building.

If you would like more information on customized accessible signage, call New Style Signs at 866-594-8354 or contact us here.


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New Style Signs supplies and installs signs throughout all of Southern Ontario.

We supply and install signs in Toronto and the following surrounding areas:

  • York Region
  • Peel Region
  • Durham Region
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