The Essential Principles of Accessible Sign Design

With the vast array of fonts, sizes, colours and designs available when assembling a sign or collection of signs, it can be easy to forget the central purpose of the sign itself: to convey information. The success of a sign is dependent upon this one factor, first and foremost. With this in mind, consider the following key principles of accessible sign design.


To ensure that your signage is as easily read as possible, choose your text and background colours carefully. Lighter colours on darker backgrounds and darker text on light backgrounds allow signs to be easily read by all, particularly the almost 600,000 people currently residing in Australia with impaired vision.


As a general rule, when it comes to signage, bigger is better. Subtle signs may appear to fit better with a company's aesthetic; however, in the case of signage, function should always trump form. Information panels should feature a font size which can be read by a person with unimpaired vision at a minimum distance of 10 feet. This will ensure that the greatest number of people will benefit from your signage.

Directional Signs

Directional arrows should be larger and left or right-justified on the sign itself, depending on the direction that the sign is pointing. In other words, any blank space left on the sign should be on the opposite side to the directional arrow. Placing the arrow and accompanying text over to the side the arrow points assists with sign legibility for people with visual and cognitive impairments.

Tactile Signs

An often overlooked form of signage which should be considered in any building welcoming visitors or the general public is tactile signage. While signs written in Braille can be useful, Braille users represent a very small portion of the blind and visually impaired population worldwide. What tends to be more useful are tactile signs (either raised or engraved) which utilise common symbols, particularly those representing disabled access (the internationally recognised figure in a wheelchair) and the male and female symbols on toilet doors. Tactile symbols for ramps, steps and telephones are also easily recognisable in either raised or engraved signage, so consider adding these to your building to improve the accessibility of your premises.

A final point

Making sure that your signs are accessible is more than just a considerate gesture to the significant percentage of the Australian population with visual or cognitive impairments: it ensures that your signs are clear and serving their purpose well for all of the people who will use them. Whether you are starting from scratch, or considering an overhaul of your existing signage, keep the information above in mind and stay accessible.