Category Archives: Universal Access

ADA Rules Make Access Easy

Regulatory Signs

In American history, few regulations have impacted business like those contained in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title III of the ADA regulates access to buildings and parking lots for people with disabilities to create access and prevent unintended discrimination. The regulations contained within title III cover things like entrances, ramps and parking spaces. The regulations in title III of the ADA also cover the familiar handicap signs that accompany accessible entrances, ramps and parking spaces. This article will cover some highlighted regulations from title III of the ADA, as well as a little information on the famous symbol emblazoned up handicap signs and handicap parking signs around the world.


According to the Department of Justice (n.d.), there must be an accessible route connecting handicapped parking spaces to accessible building entrances. If the private entity that owns the building is not in charge of the parking, then it is not necessary for them to comply, although the technical manual of the ADA encourages making the request to the appropriate governing body.

The number of necessary handicap spaces in a parking lot depends on a number of things. For instance, a parking lot with 100 spaces needs four handicap spaces, which is obviously only 4 percent. If the building is a medical care facility, where people may stay more than 24 hours, or where emergencies are handled, then 10 percent of the parking spaces need to be handicap, no matter the total number. Furthermore, if the building is a medical rehab facility that specializes in treating people with impaired mobility, then a full 20 percent of the parking spots must be handicapped.

Anyone who has ever wondered why icons like “low beam” and “windshield wiper” always look the same in every car should only look to ISO 7001 for explanation. Additional to the many well-known symbols contained within that standard is the International Symbol of Access (ISA) that emblazons handicap parking signs around the world. The ISA on handicap signs is the familiar white stick figure in a wheelchair, usually on a blue background. While the ADA may be an American law, the symbol used on handicap parking signs is international. In fact, the ISA is standardized by the International Standards Organization under the ISO 7001 standard.

The ISA isn’t only used for handicap parking spaces either; to comply with the ADA, they must also appear at passenger loading zones, accessible entrances and restrooms, if not every aforementioned area in a particular area is accessible.

The ISA is actually a copyrighted image. The copyright is held by the International Commission on Technology and Accessibility. The image was originally designed in 1968 by Susanne Koefoed, but according to Wikipedia, it was Karl Montan who made the final modification of giving the figure a head to make it the symbol known today. Now, handicap signs and handicap parking spaces everywhere display the symbol.

The ADA itself is not the only bit deserving of praise for raising the level of accessibility in the United States. Although the ADA is a law and it’s enforced by penalties, the cooperation of businesses across the country has helped the disabled, and proved that government and business can combine to make the world a better place.


(N.D.). “International Symbol of Access.” Wikipedia. Retrieved from

(N.D.). “Americans with Disabilities Act: ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual Covering Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities.” Department of Justice. Retrieved from

(2013). “The International Language of ISO Graphical Symbols.” International Standards Organization. Retrieved from

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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Helen Keller Day – Honoring a ‘Miracle,’ an Activist & an American Icon

helen keller day

June 27 is Helen Keller Day

The girl who put the work in The Miracle Worker Helen Keller later became an activist with controversial opinions on politics, feminism and the treatment of the blind and deaf that were way ahead of her time. She is celebrated nationally as an American icon on her birthday: June 27, a date which has been named Helen Keller Day in her honor.


Helen Keller was treated as a curiosity from early in her life. As Brewton (2005) wrote of the deaf-blind activist, people were more amazed that Keller had opinions than they were interested in what her opinions were. As a 19-month-old girl in the late 19th century, Keller was stricken with Scarlett Fever by some accounts, and meningitis by others, which caused her to lose her senses of sight and hearing. Her parents feared she couldn’t be taught even the most basic facets of normal life, and as a young girl, Helen Keller was extremely wild.

The family was referred by a Baltimore eye doctor to telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and he convinced them to not consider young Helen a lost cause. Bell referred the Keller’s to Michael Anagnos who was the director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind. If not for what he did next, it’s likely no one would know who Helen Keller was. Anagnos sent Anne Sullivan, a former student of the Perkins Institute, who had lost her vision in her youth, and had it saved by surgery. Sullivan knew the manual alphabet, which would come to be Helen Keller’s metaphoric light in her silent world of literal darkness.

The Miracle Worker

Visitors to Helen Keller’s childhood home in Tuscumbia, Alabama can still see the water pump Anne Sullivan used to spell “W-A-T-E-R” by signing the manual alphabet into young Helen’s hand, while she pumped water over it. This scene was made famous in TK’s Broadway play, The Miracle Worker, which also became a movie starring a young Patty Duke as Helen Keller, and Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan. While the play and the movie are both considered great works of theater and cinema, respectively, it portrayed Helen Keller’s story more as an escape from isolation than the awakening of an activist.

Over the years, Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller became close friends. In a time when few women actually received college educations, Helen Keller became the first deaf-blind person to complete a degree, when she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. At Radcliffe, she befriended John Macy, who married Anne Sullivan, and she became Anne Sullivan Macy. John Macy, a socialist, would loan his books on the subject to Helen Keller, at her request. After her graduation, Keller began writing her own books, first about her life, and then about political and activist causes near and dear to her heart.

According to Nielsen (2009), much of Helen Keller’s collegiate success should be attributed to the exhausting work done by Anne Sullivan, who would translate lecture notes and textbooks to Keller by manual alphabet, while they waited, sometimes to mid-semester, for Braille textbooks to be delivered.

Helen Keller – The Socialist

In the early 20th century, before the Russian revolution, many Americans identified as socialist, Keller being one of them. In her writings, she talked about the needs to protect the workers as she lambasted capitalism. She believed that historical precedents suggested that one day capitalism would be replaced. Steel tycoon and devout capitalist Andrew Carnegie once suggested that Helen Keller needed a spanking.

The tenor at which Keller would speak about socialist causes varied from outright talk of revolutionary overthrow to more nuanced considerations taken from her role in society as a woman, and a person living with a disability. She suggested, while supporting the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), that the workers of the world must take power as the means of production in the name of democracy.

Helen Keller – The Pacifist

As well as being a socialist, Helen Keller spoke out against war as a pacifist. She held the belief that wars were fought to preserve the interests of the wealthy. Keller said WWI benefited the military industry more than anything.

Her pacifism came from her Christian beliefs that evolved from a strict Calvinist upbringing after she met Emmanuel Swedenborg, a Christian mystic who taught that religion was based more on common love than fear of damnation. She wrote a book titled Light in my Darkness which is considered Helen Keller’s spiritual autobiography.

Keller suspended her pacifism in face of the threat presented by Adolf Hitler in WWII.

Helen Keller – The Feminist

The beliefs held by Helen Keller regarding a woman’s place in society were quite radical by the standards of her era. According to Brewton (2005), she argued that doctors should get over their “false modesty” and talk to women about the dangers of sexually-transmitted diseases, as they were a leading cause of neonatal blindness.

Furthermore, she saw the lack of available birth control as a capitalist plot to advance child labor, and that people needed to hold back “the power of propagation.”

Helen Keller – Activist for the Blind and Deaf

Through everything, Helen Keller fought to alter the perception that the blind and deaf were charity cases; instead, they should receive educations, and work as productive members of society. In Helen Keller’s later life, after her long-time friend Anne Sullivan Macy died, she began to travel the world to speak about the blind and deaf, in particular about those who lost their sight and hearing due to war.

Helen Keller Day – June 27

While some of Helen Keller’s views may have been controversial, her overcoming of adversity, her passion and her dedication to people besides herself are what earned her the recognition of a national commemorative day. The honor was bestowed by Jimmy Carter, but she had also received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Lyndon Johnson.


Brewton, V. (2005). “Helen (Adams) Keller.” American Radical and Reform Writers: First Series. Retrieved from Academic Source Premier database.

Nielsen, K. (2009). “The Grown-up Helen Keller.” Alabama Heritage. Retrieved from Academic Source Premier database.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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3 Factors To Know About The ADA And Handicap Signs

handicap sign

The ADA, standing for the American Disabilities Act, dictates all aspects about a handicap sign. This includes all areas ranging from production to final sign placement. Understanding these factors, and implementing them, is crucial to the overall success of any business.

1. ADA history

The ADA was developed in 1990 to assure equal rights for all disabled individuals, no matter what their physical or emotional capability. The law was originally implemented to improve accessibility for the visually-impaired, blind, and mobility-hindered population. The law promotes equal accessibility to all. It discusses in detail all aspects of signage including location, position, type-styles, universal symbols, and material construction.

All entities employing more than 10 people are required to understand, and abide by, ADA federal and state regulations. This includes placing wheel-chair accessible signs by building entrances, designated parking areas, and internal locations. All applicable firms must have clearly marked parking spaces set aside for both van access and handicap users. The law describes how many spots are required, based on the number of employees or traffic.

2. Updated in 2012

New federal ADA guidelines were implemented in March, 2012. These replaced all previous versions. Key areas of change include letter spacing, contrast, stroke width, and mounting height.

According to the new regulations, there must be at least 1/8-inch space between letters. The character height does not matter. The sans serif type-style is usually required for signs.

Contrast requirements are no longer in existence. Contrasts are still used, however, so consulting with a trained sign professional is recommended for optimum results. A non-glare finish must be used for both the background color and lettering. Signs must either have a dark background and light lettering, or a light background with dark-colored content. Professionally manufactured signs, like those done by Signs Direct, use a standard E.G.-reflective coating on an aluminum base.

The allowable font size is determined by the stroke width of an uppercase letter “I”. All letters used on the sign cannot be greater than 15% of the “I” height. Braille tactile characters must meet set guidelines. The ADA requires Braille be used as a dome shape.

The sign’s mounting height is discussed in detail. The actual height required varies according to exterior and interior uses. For instance, an internal sign must now be located in a position where the bottom portion is at least four feet from the floor surface. This improves visibility for the wheel-chair bound individual.

3. Can be state specific

Many state lawmakers have thoroughly researched the ADA guidelines and developed a state-specific set of governing rules and regulations. Companies that fail to comply with state requirements can face punitive damages such as lawsuits and punitive damages. It is important to know whether your state has its own set of ADA regulations. Consulting with a sign professional will provide additional insight.

Signs can be either completely text, partially text, include universal symbols, or be completely graphic. New Jersey, for instance, can use the sign to post applicable penalties. A typical handicapped parking sign can have a heading of Penalty followed by punitive damages for various offenses. The sign finally concludes with viewers being warned of being towed away at the owner’s expense.

The ADA and its requirements can be confusing and overwhelming. Contacting a sign professional will save valuable money, time, and frustration.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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Universal Access Has Helped Improve Access for All

handicap signs

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was enacted in 1990, has not only improved accessibility for individuals with recognized disabilities, but compliance with the act ensures universal access regardless of physical or mental differences (from handicap signs to products to services). The regulations included in the definition of accessibility provided by the ADA specifies a number of measurements and other regulations that must be addressed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities, Universal design, however, which is frequently associated with universal access, is truly intended to ensure that all goods and services are accessible to every individual regardless of mobility, age, visual impairment or ability, auditory impairment or ability, and mental capacity.

All individuals are created in a unique way, and although there are averages that are commonly focused upon, the ADA ensures that no individual is discriminated against or excluded due to physical or developmental differences. Universal access employs the development of innovative universal designs that meet the needs of human beings throughout the various stages of life, and in all capacities.

Advances in technology continue to make universal accessibility a real possibility for our community members. The use of assistive devices, elevators and escalators, wheelchair accessible restrooms, and other technologies have improved over the last few decades, making universal access much less complicated.

Universal Access and Its Impact on the Community

Although a number of devices were actually created to assist those with recognized disabilities in accessing goods and services, many of these devices have become universally designed to provide increased accessibility to those without disabilities as well. A look back throughout an individual’s daily life will likely reveal various instances when an assistive device or easy access design has improved the lives of others in their community, such as:

1. A mother who has her hands full and is carrying a small child, for example, is not necessarily disabled but benefits from automatic doors and wide hallways.
2. An elderly man may not be disabled, but his age and physical condition may render him unable to climb multiple flights of stairs. An elevator or escalator that might have been designed for disabled individuals might be just what he needs.
3. A man with poor corrected vision that does not qualify as a recognized disability may benefit from larger print, or even audio books.
4. An older lady may begin to experience slight impairments which might otherwise make living independently impossible – specifically universally designed equipment like lift chairs, balance rails, and shower chairs.

Adaptive Technology

Additionally, adaptive technology plays a significant role in universal access and universal design. Adaptive technology includes the development, modification, or other alteration of devices that improve the possibility that individuals can access or use goods and services that would otherwise be impossible. Items such as hearing aids, computer software, remote control devices, and many modified devices like widened wheel chairs for the obese.

Although the ADA continues to draw its focus around individuals with disabilities, it is clear that all individuals, regardless of physical or mental impairment, may actually benefit from the improved access the act has required.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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Universal Access Signs (Handicap Signs) You May Not Know

handicap signs

Here are some Universal Access or Handicap signs that you should probably know:

Get to know the Universal Ski Access Sign – this sport is on fire!
Snow fun is not limited to people without disabilities. People with disabilities are joining the fun with each passing ski season. This means more and more ski resorts are increasingly aware that families want to be able to enjoy an activity where all family members can participate. Currently, there are over 150 ski resorts in France that offer adaptive ski programs for disabled individuals. It can be very time consuming trying to find a resort to accommodate your needs. Catherine Cosby operates a non-profit foundation called Ski 2 Freedom, the company will advise families or individuals with disabilities, how to find the right resort to meet your needs. There are many adaptive ski programs in the US that offer safe and supportive alpine ski lessons for adults and children with a wide range of disabilities. Other winter outdoor sports gaining popularity with people who have disabilities are cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating and kick sledding.

Lets Take A Look At The Universal Access For Camping!
Accessible camping is another outdoor activity growing in popularity. With that popularity you will notice more wheelchair accessible camping sites popping up all over this great nation. When you see the sign it means campsites are designed to be more accessible to wheelchair users. These designated hard-packed level sites feature pedestal grills and accessible picnic tables. However, just because you see a universal access sign for camping, it does not mean the showers and restrooms are equipped. Before you decide on a campground make sure it meets all the requirements and not just some of them.

Fishing Is A Fantastic Sport To Accompany Camping!
Have you noticed any universal access fishing signs lately? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that requires all newly constructed fishing piers and platforms be usable by individuals with disabilities. Guidelines require minimum accessibility for newly constructed fishing platforms and piers. It provides specifications for elements on a pier or platform to create a basic level of usability for people with disabilities. Mainly it focuses ensuring that people with disabilities are able to access the fishing platform or pier. Other items included in this addresses elements commonly found at a fishing facility, like parking spaces, and restroom and bathing facilities.

Boating Is Also Growing In Popularity!
The ADA also requires all newly constructed boating facilities be usable by individuals with disabilities. This includes all commonly found elements at a boating facility, like restrooms, parking spaces, routes, and ramps. The accessible routes must connect accessible buildings, boating facilities, and other spaces. There are many wheelchair accessible boats and yachts on the market now too. It’s time to get outdoors and go boating. Sails up!

Please familiarize yourself with the universal access signs you may not know. We are all working together to make this a better place for all.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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