Reading the Room

Using Signage to Create Healthy and Vibrant ADA-Compliant Spaces
Sponsored by Inpro
By Erika Fredrickson
1 AIA LU/HSW; *1 ADA State Accessibility/Barrier-Free; 0.1 ICC CEU; 0.1 IACET CEU*; 1 AIBD P-CE; AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour; This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines; AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour; This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.; MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour; This course can be self-reported to the NLAA.; This course can be self-reported to the NSAA; NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour; OAA 1 Learning Hour; SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning

Learning Objectives:

  1. Discuss how signage has evolved to create more welcoming spaces in support of occupant well-being.
  2. Identify the latest signage material and manufacturing processes and their impact on occupant safety.
  3. Describe the liability exposure building owners face for non-compliance with ADA.
  4. Explain how ADA compliance leads to healthier, safer, and more welcoming environments.

This course is part of the ADA Academy

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ADA-compliant signs should provide relevant information in a clear and concise manner. Essential information may include room numbers, exit routes, directional arrows, restroom designations, and other relevant details. The content should be presented in a logical and consistent format.

Keep in mind that ADA compliance is a complex topic, and the guidelines can vary depending on the specific application and location. It is recommended to consult the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) or consult with a professional signage designer or ADA specialist to ensure compliance with the latest regulations and standards.

Photo courtesy of Inpro

There are now many qualities that make signs ADA-compliant, but one of the more obvious ones is Braille. Strict guidelines and requirements for Braille have been established and even revised over time to meet accessibility goals.

Photo courtesy of Inpro

Signage can help designate particular rooms, but also integrate with a whole building’s design for branding purposes.


Architectural signage has gone from being merely a practical obligation to becoming another key element of design. The latest technologies allow signs to fit the aesthetic vision of the architect and help tailor and enhance spaces in service to overall design goals.

By aligning architectural signage with modern concepts of workplace design, organizations can create environments that are visually appealing, functional, adaptable, and supportive of employee well-being and productivity. These signage elements enhance navigation, communication, and brand identity, and contribute to a positive and engaging workplace experience.


Modern architectural signage recognizes the importance of accessibility within the educational environment. Signage is designed to meet the needs of all students, including those with disabilities. This includes incorporating features such as tactile elements, Braille, and high contrast colors for visually impaired individuals, as well as clear and intuitive design for individuals with cognitive or learning differences.

Signage in modern classrooms often goes beyond basic wayfinding and includes visual cues that support learning and engagement. Signage may display educational content, such as maps, diagrams, or inspirational quotes, that align with the curriculum and foster a positive learning environment. This can reinforce important information or serve as visual prompts for discussions and activities.

Some modern architectural signage incorporates interactive and engaging elements that encourage student participation. This can include digital signage displays or interactive touchscreens that provide information, resources, or interactive learning experiences. By incorporating technology, signage becomes an interactive tool that enhances student engagement and collaboration.

Modern classrooms often prioritize flexibility and adaptability to accommodate different teaching and learning styles. Architectural signage can align with this concept by using modular systems that allow for easy reconfiguration and customization. Signage components, such as interchangeable panels or magnetic boards, can be adjusted to reflect changes in classroom layout or content.

In line with the student-centered approach, modern architectural signage may involve students in its design and implementation. Schools can provide opportunities for students to contribute their ideas or artwork to signage, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in the learning environment. Personalized elements, such as student nameplates or recognition boards, can also be integrated into signage to celebrate individual achievements and promote a sense of belonging.

Photo courtesy of Inpro

Patient-centered signage may also include calming visuals or artwork to create a welcoming and healing environment.


Hospitals and medical clinics can be complex and overwhelming environments. And that quality is antithetical to the goal of health and the process of healing. Healing is a process of returning to balance. In times of serious sickness, we rely on doctors, specialists, and nursing staff to administer the best care.

In recent years, we have also grown to expect the quality of the healthcare environments to match the care we receive. In recent years, we have also grown to expect the quality of the healthcare environments to match the care we receive, which is evidenced by how Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores affect hospital reimbursements. So it isn’t a surprise that a great focus and research is being put on understanding and maximizing the impact that well-designed healthcare spaces have on patient experience and healing. A growing body of research suggests that healthcare environments can positively influence the healing process, putting more emphasis on the importance of the work that designers and architects do every day.

Modern architectural signage is a piece of the bigger picture of healthcare design. It prioritizes clear wayfinding and navigation, helping patients, visitors, and staff easily navigate the facility. Signage provides clear directions, maps, and arrows to guide individuals to different departments, clinics, or amenities within the healthcare facility. In healthcare settings, it takes a patient-centric approach, aiming to improve the overall patient experience. Signage provides essential information, such as check-in areas, waiting rooms, and registration desks, ensuring patients feel supported and informed throughout their visit. Patient-centered signage may also include calming visuals, positive messaging, or artwork to create a welcoming and healing environment.

Healthcare facilities serve individuals with a wide range of abilities and diverse needs. Modern architectural signage embraces accessibility and inclusivity by incorporating features such as Braille, tactile elements, and high-contrast colors for visually impaired individuals. Signage may also include multilingual communication, accommodating individuals with different language preferences.

Hospitals and medical clinics obviously prioritize safety and emergency preparedness. Architectural signage plays a crucial role in communicating vital safety information, including emergency exits, evacuation routes, and locations of first aid stations or defibrillators. Clear and strategically placed signage helps individuals navigate the facility in emergency situations. Additionally, signage in healthcare settings recognizes the importance of health information and patient education. Signage may display informative messages related to healthy practices, disease prevention, or specific conditions. Educational signage can promote health literacy, empower patients, and encourage informed decision-making.

As healthcare facilities embrace digital advancements, modern architectural signage may incorporate technology elements. This can include interactive touchscreens or digital displays that provide real-time information, appointment updates, or wayfinding assistance. Technology-integrated signage enhances efficiency, engagement, and communication within the healthcare environment.


Architectural signage in the workplace reflects the organization's brand and identity. It incorporates the company's logo, colors, and visual elements, creating a cohesive and branded environment. Signage communicates the organization's values and culture and reinforces a sense of belonging among employees.

Photo courtesy of Inpro

Signage can help designate particular rooms, but also integrate with a whole building’s design for branding purposes.

As with healthcare and education, architectural signage in the workplace prioritizes effective wayfinding and navigation. It helps employees and visitors easily locate different departments, meeting rooms, common areas, and amenities. Clear signage with intuitive directions, symbols, and maps reduces confusion, saves time, and enhances productivity.

Signage also reflects culture change in the workplace, some of which has taken root during the pandemic. These days workplace design emphasizes collaboration and interaction among employees. Architectural signage supports this concept by incorporating collaborative spaces or interactive elements within signage. For example, signage might feature writable surfaces, digital screens for sharing information, or interactive boards for brainstorming sessions. Modern workplaces often prioritize flexibility and adaptability to accommodate changing needs and workstyles. Architectural signage aligns with this concept by using modular systems that can be easily reconfigured or updated. Signage components, such as interchangeable panels or magnetic boards, can be adjusted to reflect changes in workspace layouts or department assignments.

Another major impact of the pandemic: Workplace design increasingly considers employee wellness and productivity. Architectural signage can support this by incorporating elements that promote well-being, such as signage with calming visuals, motivational messages, or information related to wellness resources and programs. Signage can also provide reminders for breaks, encourage physical activity, or highlight ergonomic practices.

Modern architectural signage aligns with the growing focus on sustainability in workplace design. Signage may incorporate eco-friendly materials, use energy-efficient lighting, or promote environmental awareness through messaging related to recycling, energy conservation, or sustainability initiatives within the organization.

As technology plays a vital role in modern workplaces, architectural signage can integrate technology elements. Technology-integrated signage enhances communication, employee engagement, and efficiency.


In so many ways, technology and design innovation provide the architectural world with more exciting options. But this wealth of options also presents challenges: Architects are expected—and generally desire—to design enduring buildings that are also socially and environmentally responsible. Sustainable buildings must be physically durable but designed with flexibility in mind because modern organizations are constantly evolving. Hybrid offices, multipurpose rooms, moveable walls, and indoor-outdoor spaces must be built to last without confining the future possibilities of those spaces. They should be aesthetically appealing and on-trend, but not bound to fall out of date too soon.

Architectural signs can be both durable and flexible. When specifying signage durable material is key because signs should last as long as the building. New technology in signage materials offers designers durability with eco-friendly attributes and lots of aesthetic options.

Signage that lasts longer reduces the need for frequent replacement, saving both time and money.

Photo courtesy of Inpro

Applied acrylic provides a balance between durability, visual appeal, and affordability, making it a popular choice for a wide range of architectural signage applications.

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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in July 2023