Missoula Technology and Development Center Facilities Toolbox: Accessibility Tools
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Where must the wheelchair symbol be posted?

Graphic showing a person in a wheelchair logo—the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA)

Signs provide key information concerning the accessibility of programs and facilities. The International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA), the familiar person-in-a-wheelchair logo, is the most common and easily recognized symbol designating accessibility. Unfortunately, the ISA and other international symbols relating to accessibility are sometimes misused.

ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines specify the circumstances under which the ISA and other symbols should be used.

The ISA must be posted in only four places, according to the UFAS and ADAAG:

  • Accessible parking spaces

  • Accessible rest rooms

  • Accessible loading zones

  • Accessible entrances to a building if the main entrance is not accessible

Accessible Parking Spaces and Loading Zones

The only legal requirement for accessible parking spaces is to post a sign with the ISA, in high contrast colors, at each space. The word "van" must be on the sign at the van-accessible parking space. The term "handicapped" should not be used on parking or loading zone signs. See the terminology page of this toolbox for a discussion of the term "handicapped."

There is no legal requirement for land management agencies to use blue-and-white colors on the signs at accessible parking spaces or loading zones located on Federal lands. Signs with the ISA can be brown with a cream or yellow symbol and lettering that blends into Forest Service signage.

However, if you intend to enforce accessible parking areas by ticketing those parked inappropriately, your signs must comply with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) , Section 2B.35. Sign R7-8 includes the term "reserved parking" and the ISA in blue and white.

The only approved color for pavement markings designating accessible parking spaces is blue: MUTCD 3B.18.

Photo of an accessible parking area sign Photo of an accessible parking area sign Photo of an accessible van parking area sign
The cream and brown sign lets visitors know this parking space is accessible, but follows the same color scheme as other signs in the area. Vehicles without the appropriate license plate, tag, or sticker can receive a ticket for parking in this space. Vans are directed to the appropriately sized space. Vehicles without the appropriate license plate, tag, or sticker could be ticketed for parking there.

Rest rooms

The ISA and gender designation must be posted at all accessible rest rooms on the wall beside the latch side of the door, 60 inches above the floor. See the ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines section 703 Signs for specifics on colors, symbols, and characters, including raised and Brailled letters and numbers.

Entrance Signs

Graphic showing a person in a wheelchair logo—the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA)

The ISA can be posted on the main entrance sign to a facility to indicate that ALL of the facility meets the UFAS or ADAAG. Don't use the ISA on the entry sign for any facility that does not meet the Federal accessibility standards completely, or you will have some unhappy customers. Be careful where the ISA is used!

Adaptive Equipment and Services

It's usually helpful to post the appropriate international symbols where services such as sign language interpreters or adaptive equipment such as teletypewriters or assistive listening systems are available. Some of the relevant international symbols are shown below.

Graphic Symbols Indicating Adaptive Equipment or Services
Information
Teletypewriter
Telephone with volume control
Video, film, etc. is closed captioned
Audio description available

Assistive Listening system available
Sign language interpreted
ISA—use only where the facility meets Federal accessibility guidelines

Trails

Where pedestrian trails have been evaluated for accessibility, post the following information in addition to the standard message with the trail name, number, destination, and distance:

  • Typical and maximum trail grade

  • Minimum trail width

  • Typical and maximum cross slope

  • Trail surface (type and firmness of surface)

  • Any major obstacle, such as boulders in the trail tread

More information about pedestrian trails is available in the Forest Service Trails Accessibility Guidelines and the Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails.

Updates to accessibility guidelines and terminology

Do NOT use the term "handicapped" on parking signs or any other signage. See the sections on terminology and accessibility status for an explanation of why this term is unacceptable.

Do NOT follow the sign information in the 1993 publication Universal Access to Outdoor Recreation, A Design Guide with its three levels of difficult, easier, moderate.

Do NOT follow the sign information in the 1999 Draft Outdoor Recreation Developed Areas accessibility recommendations. In particular, don't post the ISA at all accessible campsites.

DO follow the sign guidance in the draft Forest Service accessibility guidelines for outdoor recreation and trails. You can follow the development process and use the latest draft versions posted at the accessibility program area of the Forest Service’s Web site.


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