California’s Braille Signage – Feel the Difference

California’s Braille Signage – Feel the Difference

“California’s Braille Signage – Feel the Difference”

Tactile signage is typically almost always missing when we perform an ADA/CASp audit on a property. Tactile signage is usually found at the strike side of a doorway mounted between 48 to 60 inches above the ground. The tactile signage will have a word or words below which, some dots comprising Braille are located. The sign may identify the function of the room beyond the doorway or it may indicate an egress point or route.

Aside from the obvious benefit of informing those with vision impairments what lies beyond the doorway they are standing at, it is also of tremendous value to building and business owners in that it potentially reduces their exposure to personal injury or worse still wrongful death suits. To understand this one just has to picture this scenario – there is an emergency evacuation of a hotel. Well, obviously everyone is going to rush to get out of the building, but what if there are guests who have vision impairments to the extent they use a cane as an aide. They may be able to get out of their room, but what about negotiating the stairs? How do they find the stairs when very often the stair egress doors can resemble other doors such as laundry rooms, etc.?   But the really useful signs in this instance would be tactile signs indicating where that door leads to. If it is a door to a staircase then it will indicate “STAIR DOWN”. If it leads to an exit enclosure then it will indicate “EXIT ENCLOSURE” or if it leads directly to an exit then it should say simply ‘EXIT”.


Fortunately for most Californians they don’t have to connect the dots when it comes to reading Braille. However Braille signage – referred to as tactile signage, is a valuable tool or persons with vision impairments in helping them to navigate around and through buildings. Now not all Braille signage is equal and in California we believe ours is more equal than others, to the extent we even differentiate it. What does this mean for the average building owner? Well if he/she shops on the Internet, then buying tactile signs that work in Florida might not help in California, even if they are on a special. In fact the California Senate even made a resolution on it. For those that are sticklers for tedium the ruling goes something like this “…Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, that all designers and manufacturers of Braille tactile signage that contract with the State of California shall comply with the California Building Code when designing, developing, manufacturing, or implementing Braille tactile signage; and be it further resolved, that all agencies of the State of California shall comply with the California Building Code when designing, developing, manufacturing, or implementing Braille tactile signage; and be it further resolved, that the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit this resolution to the Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development.”

Note: California Braille is significantly different from ADA Braille. California “Contracted Grade 2 Braille” shall be used whenever Braille symbols are specifically required. (See C.B.C. Section 1117B.5.6). The Braille fonts must be checked to be sure that they comply with Title 24 spacing, which applies in California. In essence our Grade 2 Braille is a “shorthand” form of Braille, which instead of having one Braille cell to correspond with each letter uses one or more cells to correspond with groups of letters or even whole words. So make sure that when you do your tactile signage shopping you are informed about the different types of Braille or if this is too much for you then hire a professional consultant who understands the differences and can ensure you are in compliance with the California code and informing the vision impaired public properly.

2 thoughts on “California’s Braille Signage – Feel the Difference

  1. You might also mention that under the 2013 CBC (and earlier CBC) the Braille Dots are required to be rounded. I recently had to list as non-compliant – the signage for a whole building because the Braille Dots had sharp square shoulders.

Leave a Reply