The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for elevator signage can be found in the ASME Safety Code A17. There are basically two types of sign needed. First is the signage on the elevator enclosure (referred to as the ‘hoistway’) and the controls inside the car. On the exterior, Code 17 requires 2” raised and Braille on both door jambs of the hoistway entrances positioned 60” above the floor level. Similar labeling is mandatoryon the buttons and other controls on the car’s interior, at a height of no more than 48” from the floor.
The second type of elevator signs is directional signage pointing toward the locations of elevators on each floor. Public buildings with multiple stories must have directional and way-finding signage to guide people to the elevators, escalators, and stairs. Like all compliant ADA signs, these are specified to be highly visible with non-glare high-contrast lettering and standard international symbols for sighted individuals, complemented with raised tactile lettering and Braille for those with visual disabilities. Each sign must be placed at a height that can be reached by someone sitting in a wheelchair. To accommodate the visually impaired, elevator signage must also have Braille and raised tactile lettering and symbols. Those who can accommodate wheelchairs must display the raised tactile symbol for wheelchair accessibility. And, of course, the lobby and corridors should have ADA compliant directional signs with arrows pointing in the direction of the elevators. In government facilities and commercial buildings used by the public, all elevators must have prominent signage describing their suitability (or unsuitability) for use during a fire or other emergency. An elevator or escalator requires electrical power that may be curtailed in these situations. So most multi-level edifices have elevator signs prohibiting their use in the event of a fire, flooding or other circumstances in which power may be cut off. To facilitate safe and rapid egress, there will be nearby informational signs advising people NOT to use the elevator, and providing directions to evacuate using the nearest stairway.
Local, State & Federal Requirements
Many states and cities with high-rise office and residential structures have laws regulating the design and operation of elevators. These address the special safety and accommodation issues attendant with elevator implementations in very tall buildings. Generally, the specifications for elevator signs are a part of a more comprehensive set of requirements for building directories, evacuation plans, egress maps and directional signs. These cover both the safety needs for emergency access, as well as the requirement to accommodate people with disabilities. But as far as elevator signage goes, in most cases adherence to the ADA, ASME and OSHA regulations is sufficient for these locales. At the Federal level, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) manages the regulations that govern the design, construction, and maintenance of elevators used by employees in the workplace. These OSHA requirements encompass the Car ID and capacity, inspection plates, warning notices for In Case of Fire and Elevator Out of Order. They also mandate signs for any open elevator shafts or pits, and exposure to potentially dangerous electrical and mechanical components. OSHA regulations also require distinctions between freight elevators those intended for people.
Navigating in an unfamiliar establishment can be even more daunting for someone with a disability. This is especially true for someone with impaired vision or mobility. The most difficult aspects of moving about a building are dealing with doors (hinged, sliding and revolving) and level changes (stairs, elevators, ramps, and escalators). Imagine being a blind person trying to locate a wheelchair-accessible elevator in a strange office or residential tower. That’s where ASME and OSHA compliant elevator signs come in – they enable people in wheelchairs to avoid stairways and the frustration of elevators that are not going to work for them.